On March 19, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf, sat down with a group of twenty or so patients, parents and activists working to bring a medicinal cannabis program to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Members of Campaign4Compassion, Pittsburgh NORML, and Keystone Cannabis Coalition had the opportunity to sit down with Wolf, Policy Director John Hanger, and Chief of Staff Kathleen McGinty.
They listened to concerns that the current legislation being considered by the Senate would be too limited. The Governor and his staff demonstrated a clear understanding of trusting Pennsylvania physicians to make treatment suggestions and to not arbitrarily restrict treatable conditions or delivery methods.
“We’re so thankful the Governor sat down to talk with us. He has been very vocal in his support for medicinal cannabis” said Lolly Bentch, one of the parents fighting for medicinal cannabis for their children with severe seizure disorders. “More than once throughout this gathering, many of us felt the overwhelming urge to burst into cheers, simply for having a Governor who is so willing to join in a conversation about Medical Cannabis.” Activists’ countless requests for a meeting with the prior Administration fell on deaf ears despite a threatened sit-in.
“To listen to the Governor talk about the need for vaporization as an effective delivery method showed us that he understands the issues facing Pennsylvania patients” said Patrick K. Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML. “He understands that this is an issue that should be between a patient and their physician.” Nightingale said.
The Governor made clear to everyone in attendance that they had a friend and ally in Harrisburg. “Remember, all three of us ran on this issue” he said drawing laughs and applause from the group. But as much as he would like to implement a medicinal cannabis program immediately, his hands are tied until the Senate and the House of Representatives act on this time sensitive matter.
Everyone in attendance acknowledged the challenges in moving forward. While there is broad public support in Pennsylvania for a medicinal Cannabis program, there remain concerns that it would be too limited by restricting treatable conditions and restricting delivery methods. A medicinal marijuana bill seems assured of passing the Senate, like it did last session, but its future in the House is less certain. For his part the Governor offered unwavering support, heartfelt encouragement, sound advice, and common sense solutions to many of the obstacles facing medicinal Cannabis advocates.
Campaign4Compassion Administrator Lolly Bentch said “As we move forward, we continue to hope that members of the General Assembly will remember one thing. Good health is promised to no one. Disease affects young and old, rich or poor. Disease HAS NO BOUNDARIES. So why should compassion have boundaries? There is no better time to extend our hearts and help one another. We must communicate the urgency of this matter to our legislature.”
Activists urge all who support medicinal cannabis to “Please call your Senator and Representative and tell them to support Medical Cannabis in the Commonwealth NOW!”
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