A Pennsylvania lawmaker is getting some heat for a taxpayer-funded trip he took to Colorado. On the fact-finding mission last month, Montgomery County State Senator Daylin Leach admits he smoked marijuana.
Leach has been an outspoken advocate of legalizing medical and recreational pot in Pennsylvania. He said in a phone interview he went to Colorado to see how legalized marijuana is working out. He said he visited dispensaries and other facilities, talked to locals and sampled the product.
“I smoked some – just a couple of hits in my hotel room, which is legal,” Leach said.
Leach said he wanted to see how the potency of pot has changed and how technology like vape pens had changed the pot-smoking experience.
“After only doing a couple of hits I definitely felt something,” Leach said. “But I didn’t want to get in a position where I was uncomfortable or dysfunctional. So I sort of stopped there and that’s not as much as I would have smoked 30 years ago.”
He said the trip included visits to facilities where the plant is grown, processed and tested — at a cost to taxpayers of about $5,000 for flights, hotels and a rental car. That was for Leach and three aides he brought who’ve been active in drafting marijuana legislation.
News of the trip has spawned a lot of conversation in the state capitol, and some have questioned its propriety.
“The question is, Is it a proper use of taxpayer funds?” said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, Interim President of the watchdog group The Committee of Seventy.
“Is it legal for him to do it? Yes,” Kaplan said. “Was it the best judgment for a State Senator in a state that still prosecutes people for possessing marijuana? No, it’s probably not.”
Leach said this shouldn’t be a big deal — while taxpayers paid for his travel, they didn’t buy him drugs. He says the vape pen he used to smoke pot was given to him as a gift at one of the facilities he visited.
“When you’re going out there to study the issue there’s a couple of things I wanted to understand,” Leach said. “I haven’t smoked marijuana in 25 years or more – really since I was in sort of high school, college – and you know things have changed dramatically since then.”
“First of all the technology has changed dramatically,” Leach said. “People don’t really smoke joints much anymore or whatever we smoked. It’s mostly vape pens and e-cigarettes and things and I never smoked that and I wanted to understand that.”
Leach said he hasn’t received any push back about the trip from his constituents.
“The fact that I tried a legal product, on the issue that I was studying, after I’d done all my touring on a Saturday night before I went out to dinner I mean is such a big deal…I mean is just sort of mind-blowing when you think about it,” he said.
Leach said he expects Pennsylvania will have legal medical marijuana by the end of this year, and recreational marijuana within five years.