By John Hanger
Today I am proposing a three-step reform of our marijuana laws to allow medical use of marijuana, reduce prison overcrowding, ameliorate racial discrimination in marijuana arrests, and save money.
I am calling for immediately allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, reducing the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense similar to a traffic ticket by 2015, and finally regulating and taxing marijuana use by 2017 if the previous reforms are successful and monitoring the experience in state that have legalized marijuana use.
Nationally, in 2010, 46 percent of all drug arrests were for marijuana offenses and 88 percent of the marijuana arrests were for possession. Right now, Pennsylvania is spending $325 million a year processing non-violent people through our criminal justice system for the offense of possessing marijuana. We're arresting about 25,000 each year for possession of marijuana, and unfortunately African-Americans are arrested far more frequently than whites - 5.14 times more frequently. We're branding people as drug criminals for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and that alone can ruin lives.
We are also denying marijuana to people with medical conditions that marijuana could alleviate. Marijuana is non-addictive and has been shown to be effective in relieving the side effects of chemotherapies for cancer, AIDS, and hepatitis C. It is also effective in treating chronic pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Recognizing the therapeutic benefits of marijuana, 20 states, including our neighboring states of New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, have legalized its use for medicine when prescribed by a physician.
It's time to stop wasting money and clogging our criminal justice system with non-violent people whose only offense is possession of small amounts of marijuana. I'm proposing smart, safe and compassionate reforms of our marijuana laws. My plan makes no changes in existing penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana and prohibits the use of marijuana by minors, similar to penalties currently in force for underage drinking.
The plan is available at the campaign website. Regulating and taxing marijuana could bring at least $24 million a year to state coffers, revenue that could be directed to enforcing other laws and incarcerating real criminals, concluded Hanger.
Source: Campaign Website