A new bill has been introduced to the State Senate with the intent of making marijuana legal in Pennsylvania, Legislative Director for State Sen. Daylin Leach , D- 17th District, Jonathan Tewsaid.
The legislation — Senate Bill 528 — which was introduced by Leach, would make recreational marijuana use legal for those 21 and older and would be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol, Tew said.
The bill has already gained support from Sen. Larry Farnese, D-1st District, and Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-38th District, Tew said.
Although the bill is still early in the process of becoming a law, Tew said he is confident that the bill will be passed.
But local lawmakers are not so optimistic about the bill’s chances.
Tor Michaels, chief of staff for State Rep. Scott Conklin , D-Centre, said he doubts the bill will even make it to the Senate floor for a vote.
“It will be very interesting to see if Senator Leach’s bill even makes it out of committee,” Michaels said.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff , R-Centre, said that he could not comment on whether or not he thinks the bill will make it out of the Senate, but that similar bills in the past have not been successful.
“In the short-term, gaining support may be difficult, but with a focus on education, support for the bill will continue to grow,” Tew said.
A part of this education, Tew said, will be informing people that marijuana is not as dangerous as they might think. While marijuana might not be healthy, it is no worse than alcohol, he said.
“Anything bad you could say about marijuana, you could say the same or worse about alcohol,” Tew said.
It is illogical to send people to jail for using marijuana when the state not only allows alcohol use but also sells the product itself, Tew said.
Another misconception about marijuana use that Leach and his staff would like to debunk is the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug, Tew said.
“There is little to no scientific evidence to show that marijuana is a gateway drug,” Tew said.
Legalizing marijuana would benefit the state economically, Tew said. Not only would the state save the money spent prosecuting marijuana users, but it could also benefit from taxing the product.
But even if the bill became law in Pennsylvania, Penn State students would not be able to light up on campus. Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, and the university would never change its policy to violate any federal or state laws, Penn State spokeswoman Jill Shockey said.