NORML recently interviewed Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach regarding marijuana law reform and the role it has played in state politics and his campaign. While serving in Harrisburg, Senator Leach introduced measures to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. In addition to currently serving in the state Senate, Daylin Leach is also a candidate in the Democratic primary to represent the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives (and had previously received the endorsement of NORML PAC).
What personally made you embrace marijuana law reform?
Senator Daylin Leach: My embrace for marijuana reform was based off of the pernicious and destructive laws currently in place. We live in a society where marijuana prohibition is putting a strain on our justice system that cannot continue, where sick children and adults are not getting the medicine they need, and where otherwise law-abiding citizens are losing their freedom for partaking in a “drug” that is so much less harmful than alcohol.
Despite 58% of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, why do you think some politicians are still hesitant to support these important reforms?
DL: Fear and lack of understanding Though the public is overwhelmingly supportive, understanding this support has not made its way up to many elected officials. They fear losing their next election and they do not understand what this polling means, how American sentiment on this issue has shifted.
Only after they see other politicians running – and winning – on ending prohibition will they understand that the tide has truly turned.
That is where NORML comes in, those of us who are running for Congress on this issue need your support so that we can show that this is not an issue to be afraid of, and that public support in polls is evident at the voting booth.
What has the reception to your marijuana reform platform been like?
DL: The reception from within the movement, from groups like NORML, has been fantastic.
From voters and constituents, it has been gratitude that we are talking about finding an end to prohibition, that we are finding safe and legal ways for people to get the medicine that they need, and that we are bringing some common sense to the criminal justice system.
The only push-back that I’ve gotten is from some of my fellow politicians who (as I stated in the earlier response) just don’t get it.
What advice would you give to marijuana law reform supporters who are working to change laws and bring politicians over to their side?
DL: Three words: win more elections.
Whether it is through campaign contributions (every bit helps!), or volunteering to help make phone calls or knock on doors, we need everyone who cares about this issue to mobilize around elections. And once we start winning, the politicians will follow.
If elected, what actions would you take to move away from our failed policy of marijuana prohibition?
DL: Ideally, the federal government would end prohibition with a single piece of legislation, but realistically, we that won’t pass — yet.
So, given the political realities, we need to push for more achievable goals. That is why, on taking office, I would add my name as a co-sponsor to HR 1635: the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act; HR1523: the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act; and, most importantly, HR 2652: The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act so that businesses conducting legal business transactions can do so with the same federal banking protections as every other business.
It is winning incremental steps like these that will slowly push lawmakers toward our ultimate goal.
Any final words for the NORML audience?
DLNo other candidate in the Congressional election in PA-13 supports anything close to marijuana legalization, and no other candidate has even addressed it as part of their campaign. I have, and I am proud of that. But I can only get there with your help.
My Congressional district covers parts of Philadelphia and is in the 4th most expensive media market in the country (behind only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago). Our election is May 20th and to communicate our message we are currently spending $200,000 a week!
We need you. Only by wining victories like my race will the issue and the movement progress forward. If you can make a contribution, thank you. If you can’t, sign up to phone bank (which you can do from anywhere in the country), and if you live near Philadelphia, stop by to help us knock doors.
This campaign lives and dies by the grassroots efforts of our supporters, and we need you now!
Thank you for all of your support.
Stay tuned for more interviews with policymakers, politicians, candidates, and public figures in the near future here on NORML Blog. For more information about Daylin Leach you can click here. The Pennsylvania Democratic Primary will be held on May 20th of this year, click here to find your polling place and here. A map of the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District is available here.