The country has recently witnessed serious social and political discussions involving the once universally prohibited use of marijuana. Over the past few years, many states have legalized the drug for specific purposes and in specified quantities. Most recently Alaska has joined the small group of states that have legalized marijuana, making Alaska the fourth state in the country with such legislation; the other states in this group are Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. A slightly larger number of states have laws that decriminalize the possession of marijuana and permit the medical use of the drug. Another group of states has only decriminalized the drug and a group separate from that has only permitted it for medical use. Pennsylvania, however, takes the view of the federal government and enforces an all-out prohibition of marijuana.
Among the states that have decriminalized marijuana and permitted its use for medical purposes are California, Nevada, Wisconsin, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and Maryland. The group of states that have opted only to permit medical marijuana use are Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Delaware. On the opposite side of the coin, four states have decided to decriminalize the punishment for marijuana possession without allowing for its use for medical purposes; these include Nebraska, Ohio, North Carolina, and Alabama. For some states who have chosen not to decriminalize the use of marijuana, the mere possession of marijuana in small quantities is a misdemeanor.
Although Pennsylvania has not yet joined the states softening or doing away with punishments for marijuana, the idea has certainly been put on the table. In fact, both the state Senate and governor have shown little to no resistance to the legalization of marijuana. Supporters of legalization are extremely optimistic that the bill will soon become law. This is going to pass the Senate and weve got the votes in the House by a wide margin, Senator Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, reported after a hearing recently. On the other side of the aisle Republican Senator Mike Folmer, who is the bills sponsor, stated, We know its controversial, but we plan to get the floor ASAP. What all this means is legal marijuana might be occurring as early as this year in the state of Pennsylvania.
The bill consists of the language used in legislation that passed overwhelmingly in the last senate session. Governor Wolf has already stated he would sign such a bill. Recently, at a hearing on the matter, a group of doctors from the Pennsylvania Medical Society testified in opposition to the bill. A past president of the group, Bruce McLeod, testified that drugs cause bad things and that his group wants to reduce pain and suffering. Arguments against the legalization primarily focus on what is unknown about the correct usage and dosage of marijuana. Other doctors testified to the positive medical uses of marijuana and compared it to traditional opioids, explaining that marijuana has much less severe side effects. Arguments in favor of decriminalization have included the research demonstrating benefits for marijuana as a medical supplement, the overpopulation of prisons along with the harsh punishments for marijuana possession, and a lack of concrete research demonstrating negative societal effects.
At Brownstone Law we are interested in the outcome of this legislative debate and are excited to witness the changes it will bring to the legal landscape.
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