According to the Tribune-Review, state taxpayers have paid almost $5,000 for Sen. Daylin Leach and three aides to travel to Denver to assess how legalization of marijuana is working and what effect it’s having on everyday life in Colorado.
Leach, D-Montgomery County, a champion of marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, said he sampled marijuana while there last week — using a vaporizer pen, or “vaping,” rather than smoking — but did not charge the vape pen to taxpayers. It was a gift from a facility he toured, an aide said.
The trip cost “a little less than $5,000,” spokeswoman Sarah Charles said.
His Colorado trip is “a total waste of taxpayers’ money for what will be a total blight on society,” Don Thomson, chairman of the Westmoreland County Conservative Coalition. Legalizing marijuana told the Tribune-Review.
In an op-ed piece to newspapers, Leach wrote:
”We wanted to make sure we understood how it works and what Colorado did right, and wrong, in an effort to ensure we do this the right way when the time comes,” said Leach, who predicts that full legalization is inevitable.
“We packed as much information-gathering as we could into our three days. We toured two facilities where the marijuana is grown, one lab where it is processed, one where it is tested for potency and impurities, and two dispensaries.” (See full statement on Capital Watch’s Opinion page)
He described soaring tax revenue, professional handling of marijuana in a regulated environment and reduced crime and traffic accidents.
“The bottom line is that we saw a system that is working,” Leach said. “ … Business is booming to the point that more than one person we talked to likened the coming cannabis explosion to the tech explosion of the ’90s.”
According to the Tribune-Review, The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association opposes full legalization, citing negative health effects of marijuana use, but its executive director, Richard Long, told the paper,“Medical marijuana is a different issue, as it apparently can provide some relief to people with some serious health problems.The newly enacted New York law is a good model and an acceptable bill for Pennsylvania. It would neither allow ingestion by smoking nor driving while impaired by marijuana.”
The Colorado travel charges — for flight, car rental, hotel and meals — will come out of Leach’s office account, Charles said.
Leach told the paper that his aides helped him write bills for legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, and will continue to work on the issue.
“There are many millions of dollars at stake in getting legalization right,” he said. “It seems $5,000 to make sure that happens is a wise investment.”