By Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A few hundred people who want the state to change its marijuana laws - for a variety of reasons - took their campaign to the Pennsylvania Capitol on Monday with a two-hour rally.

Speakers at the Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally urged lawmakers to permit use of the drug for medical purposes, to allow for the production of industrial hemp and to decriminalize recreational marijuana.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, whose bill to permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes is pending before a Senate panel, said disease “transcends party and ideology. Anyone’s child can get sick.”

Leach said there are enough votes to pass the proposal, although Gov. Tom Corbett has signaled his general opposition.

Corbett’s press secretary said Monday that if federal drug regulators decide the use of a marijuana byproduct is safe and effective for patients, the Republican governor would review their conclusions.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states and Washington, D.C., currently allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana programs.

Pittsburgh resident Shawnelle Dodds said she made the trek to Harrisburg to show her support, particularly for friends with medical conditions that might be alleviated with marijuana. Dodds said she is optimistic the state will change current marijuana law in the near future.

“I can feel the energy,” Dodds said. “I think that it’s going to happen.”

Les Stark of Ephrata, one of the rally organizers, also sees change on the horizon.

“It depends on how you define ‘soon,’” Stark said. “We’re confident we will prevail.”

A recent statewide poll of voters by Quinnipiac University showed 85 percent believe adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purpose if a doctor prescribes it.

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