HARRISBURG - Some advocates of repealing or relaxing Pennsylvania's marijuana laws say they are encouraged by referendum votes to legalize recreational use of the drug in Colorado and Washington state, but Gov. Corbett vows to veto any such bill.
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who sponsored one of two medical-marijuana bills that died in committee during the just-ended legislative session, said the referendum results would help pave the way for similar measures in other states.
Leach compared marijuana-legalization efforts to the debate over legalizing same-sex marriage, saying that once a few states acted, it would reveal the falsity of "all the horror stories" perpetuated by opponents.
"More and more states will do it, and as more states do it," he said, "the arguments against it will become weaker and weaker."
Leach said he intended to resurrect his bill to allow marijuana use for medical purposes and would also sponsor a bill to decriminalize the drug.
"The smoking of marijuana should not be handled as a criminal-justice issue," he said.
Chris Goldstein, a board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, agreed that the Colorado and Washington balloting would bolster support for legalizing marijuana, especially for medical reasons.
Goldstein cited a May 2010 poll by Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster showing that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians favored the medical use of marijuana.
"It's a bipartisan issue," he said. "I don't think that legislators can make it a back-burner issue anymore."
But Corbett's spokesman, Kevin Harley, said the Republican governor would veto any legalization bill, even if it were limited to medical purposes.
"He believes that smoking marijuana is a crime, should remain a crime, and," Harley said, "that marijuana is a gateway drug."
State Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.), who unsuccessfully sponsored medical-marijuana bills in the last two legislative sessions, said that he would introduce similar legislation in the next session, but that he was not optimistic about its prospects.
Cohen said the proposal lacked support among his fellow Democrats and had no support from the Republican majority. Unless that changes, he said, "it's obvious we don't have the votes to pass it."