|Photo: Lara Brenckle/The Patriot-News|
|When will Pennsylvania legislators finally get it? Their constituents support medical marijuana! Supporters of the the movement to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes rallied on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg in July 2009.|
“It may be as addictive as chocolate.”
~ Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia)
A bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana — and a new survey shows that about 80 percent of state voters support the move.
“Even though there is broad popular support for legalizing medical marijuana in the state, prospects for its legalization seem slim,” wrote pollsters G. Terry Madonna and Berwood Yost, both Franklin & Marshall College staffers.
The poll also showed that only 33 percent of the state’s voters favor the outright legalization of marijuana, reports David Warner of the Mechanicsburg Patriot-News.
|Photo: The Philadelphia Jewish Voice|
|Rep. Mark Cohen: “It may be as addictive as chocolate”|
The medical marijuana bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), has set off a hot debate between those who see marijuana as medicine, and those who claim the bill is merely a stepping stone to completely legalize cannabis.
Cohen concedes that he does not yet have the votes to pass the bill, but said he is sure the time will come.
Leading the opposition to the medical marijuana bill is Rep. Matthew Baker (R-Tioga County), who claims that the bill is actually a “Trojan horse to legalize the use of pot throughout the nation.”
To buttress his case, Baker quotes an inaccurate and discredited 2006 FDA report that says “No sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States.”
Baker claimed that Cohen, of Philadelphia, “represents a far more liberal constituency” than some other legislators, including himself.
“Support for legalizing marijuana declines with age, among self-described conservatives, and with born-again Christians,” the survey report unsurprisingly says.
But that’s just the bad news, and there’s plenty of good news, too.
“Just about every demographic group supports the use of medical marijuana, but the likelihood of supporting it is higher among women than men, among liberals and moderates than conservatives, and among those who do not consider themselves born-again Christians,” authors Cohen and Baker point out.
|Photo: Philly NORML|
|Chris Goldstein, Philly NORML, estimates that one in three Pennsylvania adults uses marijuana|
There are about 40,000 marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania every year, according to Chris Goldstein, communications director at Philly NORML. Goldstein guesstimated that one in three adults in Pennsylvania uses cannabis.
Cohen, who is chairman of the House Health Committee, where Democrats hold the majority, dismissed the complaints of critics who claim that marijuana can be addictive and can lead to harder drug use.
“It may be as addictive as chocolate,” Cohen said.
Cohen argued that cannabis is already widely available. “People who want marijuana know how to get it,” he said.
He compared the legalization of marijuana to changing the laws about gambling. Years ago, Cohen noted, the illegal numbers racket in most American cities made money off gambling. Then the state decided to get into the lottery business, and the money — rather than going to bookies — now goes to help senior citizens.
But even with wide public support, Cohen concedes he doesn’t yet have the support of enough politicians to pass the bill in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
“I think people are used to striking an anti-drug pose,” Cohen said.