Daylin Leach is no shy guy. On a January 23rd interview with PCN he joked, “I have a weird genetic mutation where I seek out controversy rather than avoid it, much to the delight of my staff.”
Add marijuana to the list.
The Montco state Senator, who reiterated to PoliticsPA his openness to running for Lieutenant Governor in 2014, has been vocal on Democratic base issues like voter ID laws, electoral college changes, current gun laws and same sex marriage. Now he’s pushing to legalize recreation pot.
“Prohibition is a cruel irrational policy which is destroying lives, costing us billions of dollars and is doing no good whatsoever,” he said.
Recently, Leach drafted a proposal that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years old or over. The bill is currently waiting for co-sponsors and waiting to be referred to the appropriate committee.
Senator Leach said he thinks his legislation could receive bi-partisanship support because of the purported money (estimated $325 million in “criminal justice costs”) that could be saved and the privacy that could be added.
Alcohol and its prohibition offer a favorite historical comparison for Senator Leach and advocates for the legalization of marijuana use.
But Pa.’s Republican-controlled legislature is unlikely to move on the subject, and Gov. Tom Corbett has promised a veto for any such bill. That leaves some Democrats and libertarian-minded GOPers little incentive to take a potentially damaging vote on the subject.
Leach’s compatriots on the issue are pushing it on ideological grounds. In the State House, Representative Mark Cohen (D-Phila), who has previously proposed legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana (see House Bill 1653), plans on re-introducing it again during this session.
Though willing to fully support the legalization of marijuana, Representative Cohen said he believes his framework for legalizing medical marijuana is a more realistic goal in Pennsylvania than full legalization.
Cohen believes Republican support on his and Senator Leach’s legislation is possible, but he hedges, “It’s not enough for one or two legislators to make that decision. You need an entire legislative body to make that decision.”
The other major difference between Leach and Cohen? Leach said he is confident that his bill, or a similar version of it, will pass. He sees its passage as an inevitable part of Pennsylvania’s future because of changing demographics and the public’s continued exposure to the issue. Cohen, on the other hand, is not as optimistic, adding that, “I don’t know if in the next 100 years that will happen.”
Agreeing with Representative Cohen on the likelihood of passage in Pennsylvania is G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, who commented, “There is no way this bill will get passed – not in this decade.”
A 2010 Franklin and Marshall College poll found that only one third of Pennsylvanians supported full legalization of marijuana – though an overwhelming 80 percent strongly or somewhat favored legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Recreational use of marijuana has already been legalized in Colorado and Washington after voter referendums.