(4/2016) Two years ago I sponsored a public forum in Adams County on the topic of medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana. It was attended by about 400 people. I have never shied away from issues that are difficult or controversial and have always tried to keep an open mind. That evening was no different. I wanted to learn why some people supported medical
marijuana and what science or anecdotal evidence existed to show that the oil of this centuries-old plant could alleviate the suffering of children tormented by epileptic seizures and how it could relieve the pain experienced by our wounded military service members and victims of cancer. Clearly, this was an issue that could have a direct impact on the quality of life of Pennsylvania citizens.
As a child of the 1960s, I am familiar with the decades-old attempt to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. I do not support this. While I am not in favor of so-called "pot shops," like those that now exist in California and Colorado, I have studied the issue of medical cannabis oil and have met with families of chronically ill children who regard it as a miracle
cure. Why, then, is it not legal?
In fact, 23 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized medical marijuana, and several others, including Pennsylvania, are considering legislation to do the same. Yet, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug – along with heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine – considered to have a high potential for abuse and with no
accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs are notorious for being habit forming and deadly. Yet, people have been ingesting marijuana in its various forms for hundreds of years and I personally have never heard of anyone overdosing on it – or becoming addicted.
I do understand the politics of the issue, however. It is no secret that pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars every year on the sale of the drugs they manufacture, and they make generous political contributions that effectively keeps marijuana on the list of Schedule I drugs. But maintaining the status quo means that no research funding will be spent to prove
its usefulness and relative safety, and it prevents the legal use of the drug by those who may be suffering needlessly.
Senate Bill 3, which would legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, passed by an overwhelming margin in the Senate before coming to the House where, after several public hearings and hours of debate, it was amended, approved and sent back to the Senate on concurrence.
This bill would permit people diagnosed with debilitating conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma or a condition producing seizures or severe pain to purchase medical cannabis from dispensers licensed by a new state board.
I voted for this legislation and the governor has said that he would sign this bill if it reaches his desk. As a parent who nearly lost his own child to a medical condition, and one who has witnessed the anguish of other parents whose children suffer from uncontrollable seizures, cancer and other dire ailments, I fail to see how I could deny any parent the right to help
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