Is Weed The New Wine? See Who's Singing Pot’s Praises - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Is Weed The New Wine? See Who's Out In The Open Singing Pot’s Praises

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PHILADELPHIA -

It is the most widely used illegal drug in the world. An estimated 18 million Americans say they are regular users of marijuana.

But who is smoking pot may – or may – not surprise you.

FOX 29's Chris O'Connell reports on a story that has drawn hundreds of comments on our Facebook page.

While some pour a glass of merlot after a long day at work, Jay Lassiter is getting high.

"This is my medical cannabis," he said.

Lassiter packs a pipe of high-grade marijuana and lights up on the back porch of his Cherry Hill home.

"The end of prohibition is coming," Lassiter said. "The beginning of the end is near. It has arrived. It is – it's coming out of my lungs."

Lassiter smokes cannabis legally. The 41-year-old political consultant suffers from HIV and is among the first in New Jersey to have a state-issued medical marijuana card. He uses pot to ease the side effect from his other medications.

"I could take a puff or two of cannabis and that sort of calms everything down, and I can take my meds, no muss no fuss," Lassiter said.

He calls himself the face of marijuana, part of a changing attitude, an acceptance of pot that's becoming more of the norm.

"It's not a big deal. Not at all," one person told FOX 29.

"To me, the stigma is gone," said another. "I just, it's been around for a long time."

A third person told us, "If people want to smoke it, let them smoke it. In the house, that's fine."

Eighteen states, including New Jersey, have passed laws allowing medical marijuana.

Other states are easing laws for simple possession. And Washington and Colorado have legalized pot altogether.

"Who is smoking pot these days?" O'Connell asked.

"Doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, pretty much everybody," said Diane Fornbacher, a suburban mother of two from Collingswood, N.J.

"Well, a lot more people are willing to say they not only that they have smoked pot but that they currently do consume cannabis," Fornbacher said.

She serves on the board for the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

Although she's against kids using pot, Fornbacher and a group of other so called marijuana moms are trying to change the image of pot use.

"It's not merely even smoking it anymore," she said. "It's special olive oils, saturated sauces, marinades, lollipops."

That's right. A search of edible marijuana turns up anything from pot crispy bars with chocolate drizzle to marijuana caramels and even cannabis candy corn.

But, in Pennsylvania, it is all still illegal.

"I don't think decriminalization is the solution," said Philadelphia Police Charles Ramsey.

Philadelphia's top cop doesn't believe in outright legalization. But even he admits laws need to be changed to ease the penalties.

"I think there should be some consideration to changing some our laws so that, for very small amounts, we could even make it a summary offense and issue a citation and move on," Ramsey said.

People who get caught with any amount of pot in Philly are handcuffed and sent to a jail cell. It happened 3,300 times last year and cost the city millions.

Pot advocates say that's money wasted.

"Marijuana prohibition is very expensive, and it's costing the Commonwealth $320 million a year," said Kevin Clough, executive director of NORML Philly. "We could tax and regulate and bring a lot more money into the economy and introduce all kinds of new green jobs."

Three years ago, Philly's district attorney implemented the "small amount of marijuana program." It allows defendants to pay $200 and attend a drug education class to have their record is expunged. But that program will soon end because of budget cuts.

"We can handle those recreational people that are not hurting people, that aren't driving under the influence of their marijuana. We can handle those people differently," District Attorney Seth Williams said.

Some believe it's just a matter of time that cannabis goes the way of alcohol prohibition in the ‘20s, where so many people are using it that it will eventually become legal for adults.

"The beginning of the drug war is over," Lassiter said. "I mean, the debate is settled in public opinion."

And pot may be coming to Pennsylvania. Lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would legalize pot for recreational use for people 21 and older.

The bill sponsor believes it will not only save millions of dollars but also generate millions in new tax revenue, O'Connell reported.

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