Today our Governor made an impromptu stop in support of critically ill Pennsylvanians. Thank you Gov. Wolf for standing with the overwhelming majority of PA who support medical cannabis reform!
The Pennsylvania Senate is poised to once again pass a medicinal cannabis bill. Senate Bill 3, essentially a mirror of the bill that passed 43 – 7 in the last legislative session, could be voted on as early as today. Prime sponsors Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Bucks) are confident of passage. The bill will then proceed to the House.
Senate Bill 3 would establish a regulatory scheme through which licenses to grow, process and dispense medicinal cannabis would be established. Patients with “qualifying conditions” would be permitted to apply for a medicinal cannabis card upon the recommendation of their physician, provided the condition is one of the approved conditions on the list as set forth in the bill.
The bill remains very limited in scope, restricting qualifying conditions to a list of 15 that includes seizure disorder, cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, PTSD, Diabetes and ALS. Eligible patients may receive a medical cannabis recommendation from their treating physician and then purchase medicinal cannabis products from a licensed medicinal cannabis dispensary. An advisory board to be formed may add qualifying conditions, but not until July, 2017.
Senate Bill 3 also restricts the manner in which a patient may both purchase and consume medicinal cannabis. Vaporization, one of the safest and most effective means of medicinal cannabinoid delivery, is restricted to three conditions – seizures, cancer treatment and PTSD, and must be specifically recommended by a physician. Further, the method of vaporization must be specifically authorized by the Board. Gone is the nonsensical “nebulizer”. The Bill also prohibits medicinal edible cannabis products, though it permits a patient to produce edible cannabis products at home.
The effort to pass a medicinal cannabis bill now turns to the House of Representatives where it faces an uncertain future. If the House hearings convened by Health Committee Chair Matt Baker are any indication, some in the House continue to believe cannabis has no medical efficacy, that it lacks scientific and medical evidence, and that Pennsylvania must wait for FDA approval. Rep. Baker, for his part, remains an immovable force urging parents with critically ill children to simply wait for pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs.
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. Were Governor Wolf to sign the legislation today patients would still face a two to three year wait before a single gram of PA produced and distributed medicinal cannabis was available for purchase. The cruel irony is that medicinal cannabis products are already available in twenty-three other states. Children with intractable epilepsy in Michigan can treat with medicinal cannabis oil, while children in PA must continue to wait.
The fight to bring even a limited medicinal cannabis program to Pennsylvania is far from over. Senate Bill 3 now moves to the House where its future is far from certain. Will the House cave to “refer madness” scaremongering and further restrict the legislation? Could it even die in Committee? Will back-door maneuvering further delay implementation of a medicinal program? Can Pennsylvanians afford to just wait and wait when relief is available a zip code or two away?
Patrick K. Nightingale, Esquire
As the Pennsylvania House of Representatives hold joint Health and Judiciary Committee hearings1 on medicinal cannabis a new Quinnipiac University poll among key “swing states” showed a staggering 88% of Pennsylvanians indicated clear support for a medicinal cannabis program in the Commonwealth. http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/2016-presidential-swing-state-polls/release-detail?ReleaseID=2183
Senators Michal Folmer and Daylin Leach have reintroduced medical cannabis legislation. Senate Bill 3 would establish a regulatory scheme through which licenses to grow, process and dispense medicinal cannabis would be established. Patients with “qualifying conditions” would be permitted to apply for a medicinal cannabis card upon the recommendation of their physician, provided the condition is one of the approved conditions on the list as set forth in the bill. Representative Mark Cohen has introduced House Bill 193 which would eliminate “qualifying conditions” and permit physicians to recommend cannabis if the physician believes it can help their patient.
With this level of public support one would assume medicinal cannabis would pass the Senate and House easily. After all, the prior version of Senate Bill 3 passed the PA Senate 43 -7 in September of last year. The PA House democratic caucus unanimously support a comprehensive bill.
So why the delay?
Advocates have been told that the privatization of liquor stores is a legislative priority. Supporters tout tax revenue from increased liquor sales in private stores. So, while critically ill children and their families are forced to consider either fleeing Pennsylvania or becoming felons, we can rest assured that the Commonwealth is making more tax revenue from the sale of and abuse of alcohol.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana in some form. Tens of millions of Americans have the option of discussing cannabis treatment with their physicians. The Veterans Administration permits cannabis use in states that have medicinal programs. Thousands of peer reviewed papers have been published discussing the medical efficacy of cannabis and literally hundreds of controlled clinical studies of the type submitted for FDA review, have demonstrated its incredible potential in controlling diabetes, relieving chronic neuropathic pain, controlling seizure disorder, relieving side effects of chemotherapy and anti-retro viral drugs, treating PTSD and other mental health conditions, and even acting as a neuro-protectant, which explains why the United States holds patent 6630507 which states “The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
Every day Pennsylvanians suffer while millions of Americans have access to medical marijuana. “My son is regressing every day. Each seizure is like Russian roulette” says Christy Harding, who’s son Jason suffers from Lennox Gestaut, a severe form of epilepsy. Julie Michaels plea demonstrates the urgency many parents feel. “My daughter has over 3000 seizures monthly. Any one of them could be her last.
We need this medicine now!” Ron Hess, who suffers from dementia, described his experience thus: “The results were better than I’d ever imagined. Everyone was telling me I was like my old self. I believed I was on the mend. My blood pressure dropped enough to drop Two out of Four blood pressure medicines. I dropped One of Two anti-depressants and one of the doses of the first Dementia meds. My doctor couldn’t believe the reversal.” But, without access to medicinal cannabis, Ron describes a world in which it takes him ten minutes to write a paragraph.
The urgency is real for chronic pain sufferers as well as a new study published in the JAMA shows that states with medicinal cannabis programs have 25% fewer prescription opioid deaths. http://www.wtae.com/health/marijuana-laws-may-reduce-painkiller-abuse/27721040?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=wtae#!bJ7tR0
Sick Pennsylvanians cannot wait another day.
Patrick K. Nightingale, Esquire
Executive Director Pittsburgh NORML