The Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg is abuzz with talk of a new bill introduced by State Senator Daylin Leach that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the state. After a report by the American Civil Liberties Union on the matter, the NAACP has thrown its support behind the bill, as has another group that might surprise some: members of law enforcement.
Neill Franklin, the executive director of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) said, “The federal government reports that 60-70 percent of profits from illegal drug trade come from marijuana.”
LEAP’s official stance is that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. They assert that it is prohibition that makes these drugs so valuable – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.
For its part, the NAACP sees this as falling within their purview, as well. Their position is that ‘tough on crime’ policies have failed the nation and its families, while ‘smart on crime’ policies work.
They point out that, according to Department of Justice data, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens, both on a per capita basis and in terms of total prison population. More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.
Both the NAACP and LEAP feel that Pennsylvania would be better served by not spending $35 million per year on arresting, incarcerating and monitoring people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana. Instead they want that money to go toward helping public education, fixing roads and providing tax cuts.
The Pennsylvania bill’s sponsors do not expect it to come up for a vote in the current Senate session, but do plan to reintroduce it in the next session in the Fall.