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Hanger: Legalize Marijuana by 2017

John Hanger portraitJohn Hanger, a Democratic candidate for Governor and former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, called for big changes to Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws Tuesday.

“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 states that have legalized marijuana use,” said Hanger.

His pro-legalization stance cements his status as the most progressive Democrat on the issue; he is the first candidate to release a detailed policy position about it.

According to Hanger, his three-step policy would reduce overcrowding in prisons, lessen racial discrimination in marijuana arrests, and ultimately save the taxpayers money.

The gubernatorial hopeful noted that marijuana offenses make up 46% of all drug arrests, and that 88% of those arrests are from possession. African Americans, he added, are 5 times more likely to be arrested for possession despite rates of usage matching other ethnic groups. Ultimately, Hanger portrayed it as a fiscal issue that could bring the state much needed revenue.

He’s running up against public opinion on the issue of full legalization. A Franklin & Marshall poll in May found that, although the idea has gotten more popular over the past decade, registered voters oppose full marijuana legalization 54% to 38%. Cross tabs are not available on F&M’s website, so it’s not clear the degree to which registered Democrats differ from the general election on the issue.

But a whopping 82% said the supported medical marijuana use, versus 16% who oppose it.

“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.

So far, Hanger is the only gubernatorial candidate to speak up so passionately on the topic of drug reform. Whether other candidates will join him or the issue will continue to be seen as a political liability remains to be seen.

The full plan is available on the campaign’s website.

14 Responses

  1. They say only 38% of Pennsylvanians support marijuana legalization, but look carefully at that Field & Marshall poll. Google it and get a look at the actual poll results and the demographics of the people they polled and everything. It was heavily skewed toward senior citizens. If you look at census data you can see what percentage of Pennsylvanians are within the various age groups and then if you compare that with the percentages of people polled in the different age groups you’ll see that the Field & Marshall poll showing only 38% support legalization isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The oldest voters who oppose legalization the most are way oversampled while young voters who tend to support marijuana legalization by wide margins are way undersampled.

    I don’t remember all the numbers as it’s been a while since I looked at this stuff, but it was shocking how skewed this thing was and I really don’t see how that could have been an accident. They did the same thing in an earlier poll a couple of years ago on the same issue, but not nearly as much as this time. What are they up to?

    John Hanger isn’t taking nearly as much a risk as it might seem. Odds are actual support is better than 50% in Pennsylvania, and even higher among Democrats.

  2. Likе mоѕt Americans, people whо smoke marijuana аlѕо pay taxes, love аnd support thеir families, аnd work hаrd tо make a bеttеr life fоr thеir children. Suddenly thеу аrе arrested, jailed аnd treated likе criminals solely bесаuѕе оf thеir recreational drug оf choice.

  3. @CentPADem – citation please for your comment on marjiuana costing billions of dollars in health care.

    otoh – his stance on this issue makes it look like I’m voting for a D next election. I’ll have to weigh it with his other positions, but apparently no R’s are going to champion this worthwhile cause. What a shame.

  4. Both legalization of medical and recreational marijuana will give more revenue to the government and it gives employment opportunities…Food and drug agency should just make sure grower of the plant should stop the use of chemical like pesticides and fertilizer so we can have good quality weed.

  5. Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster featuring Uncle Willie Nelson and The Teapot Party for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!

  6. It’s sad to watch, the dems are stealing this issue from republicans. At this point, you have to be mentally challenged to buy into the war on drugs. It has been a two trillion dollar disaster.

  7. @CentPADem: You are wrong about marijuana usage costing the country ‘billions of dollars in healthcare’. The chemicals present in marijuana have been shown to have beneficial health properties. Benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD): Attenuates (slows the effects of) cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy. Retards beta cell (-cell) damage in type 1 diabetes. Manages obesity and its associated cardiometabolic sequelae, and should remain open for consideration. Prevents type 1 in mice and protects against diabetic retinopathy in animals (American Diabetes Association funded a $300,000 study looking into it). Protects nerves and preserves retinal barrier. Offers therapeutic opportunities for a variety of inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerosis, allergic asthma, and autoimmune type 1 diabetes. Has a therapeutic role in managing neurological complications of diabetes.

  8. Tobacco and alcohol use and abuse lead to health problems which cost billions of dollars per year. Same with marijuana usage. As a society, we need to stop using substances to numb our senses.

  9. Of course, John is right. Not only is it a falsehood that Americans are opposed to legalization, but legalizing does add revenue. It works both sides of the balance sheet by stopping the wasted dollars arresting and jailing people as well as adding sales tax revenue. We legalized it in Colorado; why not in PA? Let’s do a better job at enforcing criminal laws that really matter.

  10. As backwards as our state is when it comes to alcohol, I will not hold my breath waiting for marijuana laws to change.

  11. That survey is complete bullcrap.


    The latest Rasmussen Polls (which was conducted months ago) shows A Solid Majority of Voters (56 Percent) Nationwide Favor Legalizing and Regulating Marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated.

    Most also don’t believe it should be a crime for people to consume marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.

    Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

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