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Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Pa. Senate
    #416082 - 05/11/10 10:53 PM (6 years, 6 months ago)

Pennsylvania -- One state senator wants to bring a new kind of green innovation to Pennsylvania — medical marijuana reform.

Sen. Daylin Leach’s new legislation, officially known as Senate Bill 1350, would allow people with some medical conditions to apply for a registry identification card that would permit them to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Appropriate conditions for medical marijuana use include cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, according to the bill. Marijuana would be taxed and distributed at “Compassion Centers” run by the state Department of Health. Card holders could also grow their own marijuana — up to six plants at a time.

“For too long, people have been denied marijuana as a legitimate and compassionate treatment for disease,” Leach, D-Montgomery, said. “If we can prescribe morphine and Oxycontin safely, then we should be able to prescribe marijuana.”

Leach sees the bill as an issue that transcends partisanship. A number of historically red states with populations similar to Pennsylvania have passed medical marijuana laws, he said.

“Both Democrats and Republicans can get cancer,” Leach said. “People who are desperately sick aren’t looking to get high. They’re looking to get better. That’s why we’re also calling the bill the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.”

The bill has yet to see significant support or opposition from within the legislature, Leach said, because no hearings have been held on the subject.

Despite Leach’s enthusiasm, many in the medical community of Pennsylvania and other states are not enthused about the notion of medical marijuana, including Dr. Terry McWilliams, vice president of Medical Affairs at Newport Hospital in Rhode Island.

He discussed the use of medical marijuana in that state Tuesday morning.

“While [Rhode Island] has laws permitting the use of medical marijuana, I don’t know of any doctors in Newport or the surrounding area who actually prescribe it,” McWilliams said. “I’m not an expert on the topic, but I know that medical marijuana use is not widespread.”

McWilliams, a Pitt alumnus, said marijuana can work as an effective alternative to some degenerative or harmful prescription painkillers currently on the market, particularly when such painkillers can lead to nerve damage after sustained use.

“My understanding is that marijuana can be an effective alternative to a lot of the pain killers given to cancer patients and others,” McWilliams said. “I’ve looked at the issue with interest, to see if it could apply to our hospital, but we decided not to incorporate marijuana into our care plan in the near future. At this point we don’t need it to properly treat patients.”

It is yet unclear what path the bill might take in the coming months, but if the myriad research conducted in both the public and private sectors over the last year serve as any indication, medical marijuana might soon become reality in Pennsylvania.

Fourteen states have authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The latest poll, released in early April by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that nearly three quarters of Americans responded positively to the idea of their state allowing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

What really puts gray hairs on reform advocates’ heads, according to medical marijuana advocate Allen St. Pierre, is that 44 percent of Americans support the notion of marijuana legalization.

St. Pierre is the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He discussed the new legislation during a phone interview.

“There are currently over 120 million Americans living in the 14 states where Cannabis is decriminalized,” St. Pierre said. “There are also about 90 million who live in areas with some type of medical marijuana law. If these laws were detrimental to society’s health in the way our opposition claims, we would be able to see it quite clearly.”

Of course, there are still a number of public concerns about loosening marijuana regulations, St. Pierre said. According to the Pew Research Center poll, 45 percent of Americans say they would be very or somewhat concerned if a “compassion center” opened near their home.

Despite these consternations, just 26 percent of Americans say marijuana reform is something that seriously concerns them, St. Pierre said. These concerns are highest among those who openly criticize medical marijuana, but are no higher or lower in states that already allow marijuana for medical purposes.

“The numbers make one thing pretty clear, if you’re a federal politician and you don’t support marijuana reform legislation, you’re pretty much a chump,” St. Pierre said. “If medical marijuana was a candidate anywhere but the most conservative Pennsylvania districts, it would win. It is more popular right now statewide than any of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, and it’s even more popular among Republicans than Attorney General Tom Corbett.”

Source: Pitt News, The (U of Pittsburgh, PA Edu)
Author: John Manganaro, Assistant News Editor
Published: May 11, 2010
Copyright: 2010 The Pitt News
Contact: letters@pittnews.com
Website: http://www.pittnews.com/
URL: http://drugsense.org/url/4oqZR7Wf

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