PA guv hopeful to speak at weekend pot protest, calls police presence ‘ridiculous’

John Hanger (Source: Official photo)

John Hanger (Source: Official photo)

It’s a month in 2013, which means Philly NORML and the Panic Hour comedy troupe will be holding a ‘Smokedown Prohibition’ protest at Independence Mall. That takes place this weekend, and according to an email sent out by the event’s organizers, a number of speakers will be there on Saturday, including Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate John Hanger.

Hanger, a liberal who once served as Gov. Ed Rendell’s environmental secretary, was one of the first Democrats to announce his candidacy to replace Gov. Corbett in 2014. He’s been traveling the state as of late to talk up his plan to decriminalize marijuana, then regulate and tax it, by 2017. He says this issue will win him the Democratic nomination.

He tells Philadelphia Weekly that his plan is meant to partially combat the current atmosphere in Pennsylvania as it pertains to the medical community, and what he says is a racially discriminatory policy in place, in which African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at a much higher rate than whites.

“I don’t want to be a governor who administers unjust laws — and the laws are horribly unjust,” he says.

Hanger additionally notes that, if made governor, he would turn Pennsylvania into the “equivalent of Colorado and Washington’s marijuana referendum … Pennsylvania voters have told politicians—especially Democratic politicians—that they can no longer be supporting these detestable laws. And I believe this issue will win me the nomination.”

Hanger is one of several scheduled speakers this weekend, according to a press release of the event that went out today. The protests are meant to bring attention to both marijuana advocacy and the marijuana legislation that has been introduced in the state Legislature.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states considering legalization. Protesters have noted in the past that they will continue to advocate for this issue until full legalization is a reality.

In May, protesters began getting ticketed and arrested at the monthly event. Those arrested included libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, whose arrest followed a larger police presence than had been present at the event in months prior.

According to documents obtained by Phoenixville-based blogger Ed Roper, the National Park Service spent more than $21 thousand on overtime to police the event in June.

When asked about this, Hanger calls the large police presence a “ridiculous use of federal resources … it makes no sense whatsoever to have that kind of law enforcement present at a peaceful protest.”

Lastly, I wanted to ask Hanger if he planned on lighting up in protest. Because what kind of reporter would I be if I didn’t? But he answered the question before I was able to ask it.

“I have never smoked marijuana in my life,” he says. “Never. I’m not in favor of changing the laws because of a personal affinity to smoke marijuana. I have this position because the current laws are cruel and hypocritical and horribly racially discriminatory.”

Follow Randy on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso

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