Earlier today, State Senators Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer reintroduced Pennsylvania’s Medical Cannabis Act with a wide range of bi-partisan support. Standing alongside Senators Leach and Folmer were mothers and fathers of sick children, the Campaign for Compassion and a coalition of marijuana legalization advocates from around the state. The bill, which passed in the previous legislative session as SB 1182, was also co-signed by 23 senators. Senate President Jake Corman, who did not put his name on the bill, attended today’s press conference, and stood with those on the capitol rotunda steps.
The version of the bill that was introduced was the amended version of Senate Bill 1182, and covers those who have cancer, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and post concussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe fibromyalgia and spinocerebellar ataxia. For those advocating for the bill, there are some concerns because it is not as comprehensive as they would like it to be.
The main concern is that in its current form Senate Bill 3 does not allow patients to vaporize or inhale the medical cannabis. In a statement released by Campaign for Compassion, the group felt “bittersweet” in last year’s 43 to 7 passage because “the amended version severely limited the number of qualifying conditions as well as proven administration methods,” which would be through inhaling or vaporizing.
Therese Nightingle, an Allegheny County resident who is a stage 3 Hodgkins lymphoma survivor, urges legislators to “please allow vaporization back on the list as inhalation in one of the most effective methods of consuming the medicine for this ailment.” The group claims that oral ingestion “takes up to 2 hours to reach effectiveness, thus making this a very poor method for anyone suffering from nausea, appetite reduction or pain,” and cites it as “one of many reasons why people undergoing chemotherapy do not like the oral THC pill Marinol.”
Keri Newman, a Dauphin County resident, is disappointed and “a little shocked” that those suffering from chronic pain were left out of the legislation because “studies show a 25% reduction in deaths from opiates in states where medical marijuana is legal.”
There is hope for those who have concerns about the bill. Before the press conference began, advocates mentioned that Senate Bill 3 is expected to be sent to the Senate State and Local Government committee, which is chaired by primary co-sponsor Mike Folmer and which hosts other co-sponsors Daylin Leach, Don White, Pat Stefano and Judy Schwank. This will hopefully allow the advocates to raise their concerns and add amendments to the legislation that will make it a more comprehensive bill. During the press conference, Mike Folmer and Daylin Leach expressed sentiments that they will fight to make the bill as comprehensive as possible.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa expressed that the state has a duty to help those who are sick, and Senator Schwank took time to thank the parents who brought this issue to them because they are the reason why medical cannabis has become an issue in Pennsylvania. In the press conference, she said “never underestimate the power of a mother or father, who wants to see a child, a sick child, get cured.”