PA: Congressional Candidates In 9th District Diverge On Legalizing Marijuana

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Primary elections often feature a field of candidates with policy positions that are barely distinguishable as they court voters of the same party.

But there is some differentiation among candidates in Pennsylvania’s ninth district on some issues, including marijuana.

The topic came up Monday night during a dual debate hosted by Lebanon Broadcasting Company at Harrisburg Area Community College’s campus in downtown Lebanon.

Laura Quick and Gary Wegman support the federal decriminalization of marijuana, and think legalizing recreational use nationwide would get bipartisan support.

That’s not shocking for Democrats like Quick, a former UPS driver from Palmyra, and Wegman, a dentist who’s been playing up his continued involvement in his family’s Berks County farm.

But the third Democratic contender Denny Wolff, who was state agriculture secretary under Governor Ed Rendell, is ok with medical use only, calling himself “old school.”

Wolff says he wants give it more time in states where the drug is already legal, and watch what happens there.

Republicans Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage and Scott Uehlinger, a veteran of the Navy who’s also retired from the C-I-A, says they only support the legalization of medical marijuana.

Dan Meuser, former Revenue Secretary under Governor Tom Corbett, says he was skeptical about the medical effectiveness of the drug, until seeing supportive research.

Meusuer also says while he doesn’t think states should be turning to marijuana to balance their budgets money, he does support decriminalizing small amounts for personal use.

The ninth district includes all of Lebanon, Schuylkill, Carbon and Columbia counties and parts of Berks, Luzerne, Montour and Northumberland counties.

Technically, there’s no incumbent and the race is wide open – in pat, because the district is entirely new since Pennsylvania’s congressional map was overturned and replaced by the state Supreme court in a landmark decision earlier this year.

But much of the new ninth district’s territory used to be considered the 11th – which is currently represented by Republican Congressman Lou Barletta, who launched a Senate campaign before the courts had ruled.