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Legalize Marijuana, Says Pennsylvania GOP State Senate Candidate

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While polling generally shows that Democratic voters are more likely than Republicans to support legalizing marijuana, a growing number of Republican elected officials and candidates are speaking out in favor of reforming cannabis laws.

On Monday night, John DiSanto, a candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate, added his voice in support of ending prohibition.

“We’re spending so much money fighting a war that’s never going to be won,” he said during a debate for the GOP nomination for the state’s 15th Senate district, according to PennLive.com. “There’s no difference if somebody wants to smoke a little bit of marijuana or drink some wine on their back porch. It’s just a non-argument.”

Incumbent Sen. Rob Teplitz, a Democrat, opposes legalization.

Although the senator is a leading co-sponsor of the medical marijuana bill that’s working its way through the state legislature, he “does not support broader legalization or broader decriminalization of marijuana,” spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer told Marijuana.com in a phone interview.

DiSanto’s opponent for the GOP nomination, Andrew Lewis, also opposes legalizing cannabis, but is willing to consider decriminalization.

“I don’t believe it’s a good idea. It destigmatizes drug use. And I think there is some evidence that shows that it is a gateway drug and I think it would be foolish to totally legalize recreational use of marijuana in Pennsylvania,” he told PennLive in an interview after the debate with DiSanto. “Now we can talk decriminalization… I don’t want necessarily people going to jail over these issues… I think it’s a discussion I’m open to having.”

DiSanto, for his part, added in a post-debate interview that he feels that “ultimately marijuana should be legalized for recreational use in small amounts… The amount of money that’s spent policing this and jailing people for something that’s not a gateway drug really is not the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

The primary election will be held on April 26. In the Democratic nominating contest, Teplitz faces challenger Alvin Taylor, who he narrowly defeated in 2012. Taylor’s position on legalization is unknown.

In the meantime, Pennsylvania could soon become the 24th state in the U.S. with a comprehensive medical cannabis program. This month the State House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to give patients legal access, and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has pledged to sign it.

The legislation already passed the Senate with Teplitz’s support last year, but changes made on the House floor require it to go back to the originating chamber for another vote before it heads to the governor’s desk. That is expected to take place within the coming days or weeks, but some of the House’s amendments have not been well-received by the original Senate sponsors. Now, those legislators are left with the choice of accepting a bill that’s not fully to their liking or working to further amend the legislation and send it back to the House, where it could die before crossing the finish line.

Wold has urged that senators not take the risk and quickly send him the House-passed version for his signature.

Both DiSanto and Lewis, the GOP candidates, support medical marijuana, according to PennLive.

“Honestly, we need to reduce barriers to entry into this market so we can get treatment out as quickly as possible to our veterans and folks suffering with these chronic conditions,” Lewis said.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

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