Rally at Pa. Capitol calls for legalization of recreational marijuana

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – They carried signs to the Capitol.

One read, “Yes, we cannabis.”

Another, “Weed the people.”

About two dozen supporters of recreational marijuana made their case in the Rotunda.

“Why is it illegal for us to use a plant we can grow in our gardens to heal ourselves?” asked Christie Billett, the rally organizer who represents Pennsylvanians for State Access, a pro-pot group.

Derek Rosenzweig is with the Philly Chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “Marijuana, objectively, is safer than the vast majority of legal drugs out there and that includes alcohol, caffeine and tobacco,” Rosenzweig said. “And it’s safer than most of the illegal drugs out there: heroin, ecstasy, etcetera.”

The group is heartened by growing support across the nation. Following Tuesday’s elections, eight states have now legalized recreational pot.

“Colorado has had full legalization for a few years and the sky hasn’t fallen,” Billett said. “Their economy is booming. Their roads are amazing.”

Many are urging Pennsylvania to legalize recreational pot and tax it to ease budgetary shortfalls.

Others are opposed.

“It just doesn’t seem right to me,” Rep. Mike Regan (R-York) said. “It’s a drug and I do think there’s something to it being a gateway drug, leading to other things, which scares me especially with the heroin epidemic going on right now.”

Regan was a leading advocate for medical marijuana legalization which passed earlier this year, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go.

“If you really want to have access to recreational marijuana, the way it’s going you won’t have to travel far,” Regan said, referencing the other states that have legalized it, “but I think it’s going to be awhile before you see it here in Pennsylvania.”

Which is a bummer to York’s Matheu Ringley, who spoke at the rally and says he needs to smoke marijuana for post-traumatic stress and other disorders. Ringley says the recently passed medical marijuana bill does nothing to ease his pain.

“As a disabled veteran, I find it appalling that we are considered criminals in our own commonwealth,” he said. “If I go outside and have medical cannabis right now, I will be arrested.”

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