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How would legalized marijuana use affect Pennsylvania?

After voters in Colorado and Washington approved initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, officials in Pennsylvania were expectedly quizzical about the possibility of legalized marijuana use in the commonwealth.

While marijuana possession is currently illegal in Pennsylvania, the difference between state and federal law would ostensibly have to be resolved. The Controlled Substances Act still lists marijuana as a "Schedule I" drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no effective use for medical treatment. Marijuana is in the same class as other addictive drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamines.

However, it does not appear that the federal government has done much to challenge the 17 states that allow medicinal marijuana use. In Colorado, for example, Governor John Hickenlooper asked for a federal response to its recently approved law, but has yet to receive a response. Federal authorities have also taken a lighter stance on potential marijuana violations in California.

Nevertheless, some law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania believe that legalized marijuana use will only lead to more problems. Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean explained to YDR.com that nearly every call that officers respond to involve someone using drugs or alcohol. This includes car accidents, domestic abuse calls and robberies. Enabling the public use of marijuana would be an undue burden on the criminal justice system.

In the meantime, proponents of recreational use disagree with these notions. They cite the small amounts that have been legalized (typically less than an ounce) and the number of studies showing that marijuana use can actually help people.

While many questions remain on both sides of the topic, only time will tell how Pennsylvania will be affected.

Source: YDR.com, Legal marijuana in Pennsylvania, York County law enforcement foresee issues, November 11, 2012

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Gregory R. Gifford
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