Medical Cannabis Round Table Open to the Public



Medical Cannabis Round Table Open to the Public

On August 13, 2015, the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce will host an open round table regarding the possible legalization of medical cannabis in the state of Pennsylvania.

July 21, 2015 – – On Thursday, August 13, 2015, a Medical Cannabis Round Table will be held at 7:00 pm in the auditorium of the Ellwood City Municipal Building. The event, sponsored by the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce, will present viewpoints from both sides of the issues. The Chamber remains neutral on the topic, but is presenting the information so that individuals and businesses have a better understanding of the issues.

Lori Hilliard, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, explains, “We’ve been approached by various individuals and businesses who have had questions about the issue of medical cannabis and weren’t sure where to go to get accurate information. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania state senators approved State Senate Bill 3, which would legalize marijuana for medical applications. In fact, it passed with a 40-7 vote. It will soon go to the House for approval. There are strict limitations regarding how medical cannabis can be used and how it will be regulated, but many people aren’t sure of the details or how it will be monitored. In order to help people understand what’s happening and how it may affect them, we decided to host a round table.”

So far, twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Similar legislation is pending in seven more states. Eleven states have failed to legalize it or have had the matter put on hold. Senate Bill 3 could be voted on in the Pennsylvania State House later this year.

Speakers at the Medical cannabis Round Table will include Attorney Patrick Nightingale, a criminal defense attorney and outspoken proponent of medical cannabis; Ryan West, CFI, LPQ of Greenbriar Treatment Centers, he is a published expert on the subject of workplace drug and alcohol addiction, including a specialized article on cannabis use in the workplace; State Senator Mike Folmer, the sponsor of Senate Bill 3; and Danielle McGurk, the parent of two children who could benefit from medical cannabis to treat a severe form of epilepsy. Each speaker will have fifteen minutes to address the medical cannabis issue and explain their stance. Nick Kerin from the Beaver, PA office of Representative Keith Rothfus will also be attending but will not be speaking.

After all participants have spoken, audience questions will be accepted in writing and responded to by the panelists. As guests arrive at the round table they will be given pencil and paper to write down their questions.

For more information about the Medical Cannabis Round Table, please contact Lori Hilliard at the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce, execdir@ellwoodchamber.orgor 724-758-5501.

Lori Hilliard
Executive Director
Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce
806 Lawrence Ave.
Ellwood City, PA 16117

Medical Marijuana: A Brand New Battle in Pennsylvania


Who is Matthew Baker and more importantly, who does he think he is?

If I had to guess, he’s a power hungry politician who represents a very small percentage of Pennsylvanians. He seems more intent on being a pseudo scientist and medical professional than in being a legislator.

One cannot argue the republican representative is very popular in Tioga County (population a bit over 46,000) where he garners enough support to potentially remain in office for a very long time.

He claims to have all this scientific data and research, yet has failed to produce even one study during the debate on Senate Bill 3, the Medical Cannabis Act.

He utterly ignores the fact that 23 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana already, and all without attendant horror stories of death and mayhem.

Even more amazing, he ignores the fact that the United States government itself actually provides medical marijuana for a small number of patients. That’s right, Uncle Sam is dealing the Devil’s Lettuce in the form of tin cans of perfectly rolled joints.

This is the same government that keeps marijuana listed on the Schedule 1 narcotics list, though we are starting to see a change of attitudes on that among politicians and law enforcement professionals.

And still Mr. Baker, who chairs the House Health Committee, refuses to focus on what is happening in the world around, before his very eyes. He instead chooses to focus on the fear of “what if?”, and perhaps the fear of losing his office.

Or maybe, just maybe, he fears losing a rather large portion of his donors, which for some reason include a large number of pharmaceutical firms. This would not be odd if these companies had offices or manufacturing facilities located in Tioga county, but they don’t. Why would they even donate to a campaign whose outcome has no actual effect on their business?

He certainly has no difficulty ignoring the fact that several of his contributors are facing penalties and fines for selling drugs for uses which are unapproved by the FDA:

“It is amazing when you consider the strong opposition of the expert medical and scientific community that appeared to be ignored (and) the only drugs that should be allowed in the Commonwealth are those that are authorized through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. —  Rep. Matthew Baker

How can one explain his unwillingness to produce these reports of strong opposition and why pharmaceutical companies would be concerned about the election outcomes in a very small county in Pennsylvania?

Oh, wait. He chairs that committee. Let’s give him money.

Actually, I am reminded of the scene from Blazing Saddles, when Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) says, “But, where could we find such a man? And why am I talking to you?” “You” being, WE, the people.

Do you have any idea how tired I and others are of reminding Mr. Baker that 88% of the people in Pennsylvania approve of medical marijuana legalization?  Apparently, a large part of that other 12 percent live in Tioga County, which must be populated by folks who would rather let children die than see their beloved representative lose his corporate donor base.

Why is it even legal for a corporation with no address in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, to donate in what is, by definition, a local election?  I find it hard to believe they do it because they call it home… in their hearts, anyway.

How would you feel if, say, 10 doctors agreed on a potentially life saving medicine for you, or heaven forbid, your child, but a single politician, backed by money from a bunch of companies with no viable alternative to offer (I know, they’re working on it, so just suffer till they work it out), is able to tell your doctors, “No, let your patient die.”

Does any of this make sense to you?

It makes sense to Matthew Baker. He seemingly has no problem (or compassion) saying ‘no’ when a weeping mother stands before him, telling a true story of how this medicine can save her child. He’d rather protect imaginary children than real, living breathing children.

Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe he’d rather have the money.

Scott Gacek at The Daily Chronic has written an excellent piece detailing the campaign contributors Mr. Baker actually represents. He has quoted myself and others in the fight to legalize marijuana about Matt Baker and about new strategies we need to explore.

Frankly, having participated in this ongoing debate for years, including testifying in Harrisburg, I am starting to wonder if Mr. Baker is delusional and in need of some medication from his supporters.

Or at the very least, the man seems to be in need of an enema, and fortunately, he won’t need a prescription for that.

About the author

Patrick K. Nightingale is a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor with deep experience in search and seizure law, DUI law, drug crimes, white collar crimes, and representing violent offenders. Since 1996, Mr. Nightingale has worked diligently on behalf of his clients to mount passionate, well-planned, and professional criminal defense services. Mr. Nightingale is also an active member of the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA), the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Blocked by Rep. Matt Baker

HARRISBURG, PA —  A bill decisively passed by the Pennsylvania Senate to allow medical marijuana in the state could be stalled indefinitely if a key lawmaker in the House has his way.

Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga County), Chair of the House Health Committee, said Friday that he has no intentions of allowing his committee to take up the Senate’s medical marijuana bill — or any other bill to allow marijuana for medical purposes.

“It is not likely that this bill will be taken up in the foreseeable future at this point in time,” Baker said Friday.

Rep. Matt Baker

Unfortunately for those Pennsylvanians suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a dozen other qualifying conditions, the Senate approved medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 3 has been assigned to Rep. Baker’s committee in the Pennsylvania House, where a similar bill died last year after also receiving Senate approval.

Senate Bill 3, bipartisan legislation spearheaded by Senators Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County), was decisively passed on Tuesday by the Senate by a 40-7 vote.   The bill would have created a comprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana program in the state.

Despite overwhelming support from both the Pennsylvania Senate and high polling among Pennsyvania voters — polls show legalizing medical marijuana has the support of upwards of 88% of Keystone State voters — it seems that Rep. Matt Baker may single handedly prevented access to medical marijuana for his constituents.

Baker said he was “very disappointed” that the Senate voted to approve the medical marijuana bill, even though the bill was tightly regulated and would have banned smoking and edible sales, and only would have allowed vaporization for a few pre-approved conditions.

“It is amazing when you consider the strong opposition of the expert medical and scientific community that appeared to be ignored,” Baker said, adding that the only drugs that should be allowed in the Commonwealth are those that are authorized through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

According to Rep. Baker, one of the main reasons to not advance Senate Bill 3 is because cannabis is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  That, however, did not stop Rep. Baker from accepting campaign contributions from multiple pharmaceutical companies who have combined to pay over $1 billion to settle charges that they were marketing drugs for uses not approved by the FDA.

The proposed bill would limit the use of medical marijuana to patients suffering from 15 specific conditions: cancer; epilepsy and seizures; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cachexia/wasting syndrome; Parkinson’s disease; traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-concussion syndrome; multiple sclerosis; spinocerebellara ataxia (SCA); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); severe fibromyalgia; HIV/AIDS; glaucoma; Chron’s disease; diabetes; and chronic pain “where other methods of treatment no longer have therapeutic or palliative benefit.”

It may — or may not — come as a surprise to see that the majority of reported campaign contributions come from companies that manufacture drugs that treat many of those qualifying conditions.

Public campaign finance records show significant contributions from pharmaceutical companies that could potentially profit from the continued prohibition of plant-derived medicine.  Most of the pharmaceutical companies that contributed to Baker’s election campaigns manufacture or market drugs that treat conditions that would be eligible for the medical marijuana program proposed in Senate Bill 3.

When breaking down campaign contributions by industry, the pharmaceutical and healthcare product industry made up the largest percentage of reported contributions, totaling $32,800.   When looking at individual contributions, Baker received several notable campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacies and drug wholesalers, totaling over $37,000:

AstraZeneca $6,800
Abbott Laboratories $3,500
Value Drug $3,450
Johnson & Johnson $3,400
Medco Health Solutions, Inc. $3,000
Hoffmann-La Roche $2,500
Sanofi US $2,500
Pfizer $2,250
Novartis $1,800
Merck & Co $1,750
GlaxoSmithKline $1,500
CVS Caremark $1,000
Eli Lilly and Company $1,000
Rite Aid $1,000
Endo Pharmaceuticals $1,000
AbbVie, Inc $1,000

Among Baker’s 2014 campaign contributors is Value Drug, Inc, a Pennsylvania based drug wholesaler that agreed in June 2014 to pay $4 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by failing to report suspicious orders of oxycodone to six pharmacies located in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Also among Baker’s contributors is Abbot Laboratories, who agreed to pay at least $1.3 billion in 2011 for illegally marketing its Depakote epilepsy drug to the U.S. government and 24 states.  Abbot Laboratories was also under fire in 2012, when the company plead guilty and agreed to pay a $500 million fine and $198.5 million forfeiture for illegal marketing, and in a plea agreement was assessed the second-largest criminal fine in U.S. history for a drug company.  That punishment was related to the company’s unlawful promotion of the prescription drug Depakote for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Depakote had only been approved by the FDA for three uses –epileptic seizures, bipolar mania and the prevention of migraines — but Abbot Laboratories marketed the drug as a treatment for psychiatric conditions including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Then there is Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit management company that was fined $155 million in 2006 for accepting kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers to favor their drugs, and paid kickbacks to health plans to obtain business.

And let’s not forget about Hoffmann-La Roche, who paid $500 million in criminal fines in 1999 after pleading guilty to participation in a worldwide conspiracy to raise and fix prices on vitamins sold in the United States and other countries.

Or AstraZeneca, who makes several drugs to combat cancer, diabetes and other conditions covered under the proposed medical marijuana bill.  AstraZeneca paid $520 million in 2010 to settle allegations that they illegally marketed the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.

And finally, there is AbbVie, Inc, who markets Marinol, a prescription pill that is made of synthetic THC and is used to help stimulate the appetite of AIDS patients.  Marinol is the only US FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid, and is often marketed as a legal pharmaceutical alternative to natural cannabis, according to NORML.

There are also significant campaign contributions from major pharmacy chains CVS and Rite Aid, neither of whom would be permitted under Senate Bill 3 to distribute medical marijuana.

Rep. Baker represents Pennsylvania’s 68th House District, which, according to the 2010 census, is home to 59,039 residents.  That represents only .46% — less than half a percent — of Pennsylvania’s total population of 12,702,884.

So what is next for the future of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania?

“The fight to bring even a limited medicinal cannabis program to Pennsylvania is far from over,” says Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq., Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. “It seems incredible to activists, patients and supporters that medicinal cannabis enjoys 88% support here in the Commonwealth but the future of a medicinal cannabis bill remains uncertain.”

“It should also come as no surprise to activists and patients alike that Chairman Baker takes his marching orders from the pharmaceutical industry, as they have been his primary donors,” Nightingale says. “No wonder Chairman Baker has the audacity to counsel the parents of severely epileptic children to simply wait for GW Pharmaceuticals to come to the rescue with an anti-seizure drug in 2017.”

“Now we are tasked with the challenge of moving legislation forward in a committee system that all but guarantees that one man can thwart the will of 88% of Pennsylvanians who support medicinal cannabis,” Nightingale added.

Activists are already planning lobbying efforts in Harrisburg, aimed at persuading Rep. Baker to take action on Senate Bill 3.

“He does not yet understand the political weight and pressure we are about to bring down on him.” says Les Stark of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. “It’s easier to turn up the heat on one man than the entire General Assembly.”

“It’s going to be a wild ride,” Stark added.

For Pennsylvania residents wishing to contact Rep. Baker, his official contact information is as follows:

Capitol Office
213 Ryan Office Building
PO Box 202068
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2068
Phone: 717-772-5371
Fax: 717-705-1850
TTY: 855-282-0614



© All rights reserved. This article originally appeared on The Daily Chronic and is used here with permission under a joint partnership agreement between Pittsburgh NORML and The Daily Chronic. This content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Click here for more information.

Read the original post of this article on  The Daily Chronic

Scott Gacek A long time marijuana reform activist from Boston, Scott Gacek served on the Board of Directors of MassCann/NORML from 2009-2011. Since then, he has worked with several grassroots reform organizations around the country, including Bay State Repeal in Massachusetts and NORML chapters in Pennsylvania.