PENNSYLVANIA: Millersville University students, in a recent survey, estimated that a whopping 93 percent of their college peers smoke marijuana.
An on-campus drug-abuse counselor, however, believes the real number is closer to the national statistics, which indicate that one-quarter of students use pot.
Counselor John Baltzer does believe the students’ “false consensus” signifies a growing acceptance here of marijuana use that stretches beyond college campuses.
“In my time, (society) wouldn’t serve, hire or respect ‘long-haired, dope-smoking hippies,’ ” Baltzer said. “Now, weed use is accepted in a great deal of our society.
“Attitudes about pot and its use have changed a great deal over the last five years or so.”
And locals can expect the pendulum to swing even further in that direction, Baltzer predicted.
“Even in a state like Pennsylvania,” he said.
Feds pull back on enforcement
A recent memo from the U.S. Department of Justice is being called, by pot advocates, a major victory. In the memo, the DOJ outlines a limited pullback on federal enforcement of marijuana laws, saying it will not interfere with new state laws in Colorado and Washington that permit recreational use.
That could affect an estimated 23 other states that have reformed pot laws and several others that are considering doing so. Pennsylvania falls into the latter category, with a pair of current senate bills introduced in April by state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat who represents parts of Montgomery and Delaware counties.
Senate Bill 528, or the “Regulate Marijuana Act,” and Senate Bill 770, which would permit medicinal use, have yet to come up for votes.
And the federal memo won’t automatically change that, as some pot advocates are expecting. Local lawmakers and law-enforcement officials certainly aren’t convinced.
“I am not aware of — nor would I support — any serious efforts to overturn Pennsylvania’s drug laws,” state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a West Lampeter Republican, said Wednesday.
Culture change in motion
Lancaster County President Judge Joseph Madenspacher and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman agree with Smucker.
“In my opinion, it would require a change of culture in the entire state,” Madenspacher said.
There is a movement among local residents who want a discussion of marijuana laws. A pair of rallies this summer in downtown Lancaster advocating legalization were well-attended.
Local defense attorney Richard B. MacDonald spoke at the rallies and also addressed a pro-pot event in Philadelphia on May 18. He sees the federal memo as a “green light” for states to loosen marijuana laws.
“Their position removes the only legitimate impediment to proceeding,” said MacDonald, a defense lawyer here since 1980. “If our representatives give this Senate Bill (528) fair consideration, there is no way they can justify maintaining prohibition with all its costs — financially, and otherwise.”