By Veronica Morgan
Chester County, PA – West Chester played host to Pro-Cannabis reformers led by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition on Monday, at the corner of High Street and Market.
Les Stark is the executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and co-organizer of the event. “What we’re here to do is talk about all aspects of cannabis reform in the state,” Stark explained. “We want a legal regulated market. We think the farmers of Chester County should be growing hemp. Peoples’ lives are being ruined and destroyed, we think it is wrong to continue to arrest and imprison for marijuana offences.”
Keystone has introduced two hemp bills in the Pennsylvania State Legislature. SB 50 was sponsored by State Senator, Judith Schwanck-D, and House Bill 967, was sponsored by Russ Diamond-R. Both bills address hemp as an industry, which is an introductory step to legalization.
The rally attracted a broad spectrum of activists, many of whom lit up during the rally. A Marine Corps veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, Mike Whiter, spoke to the benefits for vets suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that plagues countless men and women. Whiter said, “I was depressed, I was suicidal. I was a zombie. I existed, I took handfuls of pills, now you see me out here talking.” Whiter credited the use of cannabis, in addition to his pills with his recovery. “I could have emotions; it allowed me to be a human again.”
Another speaker, Adrienne Lesa, is a local who asserts cannabis oil and her antiretroviral therapy combined were the life saving combination that brought her back to life, when she was dying of AIDS. “I went from the brink of death to an undetectable viral load in nine months.”
Democratic candidate for Congress, David Baker, spoke to the crowd in bare feet. Baker admitted to smoking marijuana most of his adult life, adding, “I got six marijuana possessions, and got my driver’s license back two months ago.” Baker backed up his words with a check, written to Keystone Cannabis Coalition. “This is my first check as a politician,” Baker boasted.
The city of Brotherly Love- Philadelphia has already begun to decriminalize marijuana. Many speakers noted the state should follow the city’s example. Stating some statistics, Stark explained the financial benefits to the state. “[The Pennsylvania State Treasury] could see a potential $400-$500 million a year turnaround.” He also claimed the illegal market is valued at almost $2.5 billion annually.