Legislation Seeks To Legalize MMJ in Pennsylvania

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  Legislation Seeks To Legalize MMJ in Pennsylvania

Posted by CN Staff on May 18, 2009 at 04:41:23 PT
By Larissa Theodore, Times Staff 
Source: Beaver County Times 

P.A. -- A Pennsylvania legislator has introduced a bill that would allow the sick and suffering to legally use small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, said he introduced the bill because it seemed, after talking to people, that marijuana had a legitimate use in easing the pain and suffering of patients diagnosed with life-threatening or painful illnesses. For Cohen, the sensitive issue also hits close to home. His father died four years ago with Crohn’s disease and glaucoma. Evidence has shown marijuana is helpful in treating both conditions, he said.
Medical marijuana was legally prescribed for many years in the United States until prohibition and there is now a stigma attached, Cohen said. He said it’s time to stop criminalizing people suffering from a painful disease or a treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.“Today, tens of millions of people use marijuana. Making it illegal has clearly not stopped the flow of it. If anything, it’s increased it. Make it legal for those who can use it for legitimate medical purposes.”Benjamin Wilhelm, president of Western Pennsylvania NORML, a Baden-based advocacy group that tries to spread awareness and educate the public about marijuana, said he wholeheartedly supports the bill. He says he has been in contact with people who say medical marijuana would take the edge off and help ease their condition. He said many prescription medications that people take don’t cure patient conditions.“The medication that they give you for those types of conditions can hold you back in a lot of the way you live your life,” Wilhelm said. “They’re often a lot more dangerous and destructive to your body and your system than marijuana would be.”For example, Dilaudid — prescribed to patients such as those with multiple sclerosis — is a narcotic pain-relieving drug with adverse side effects that can include withdrawal symptoms, respiratory depression, seizure and cardiac arrest, according to the Food and Drug Administration.Center Township Police Chief Barry Kramer, who is against decriminalization, said he believes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes will only introduce more users into society. He said alcohol use has increased since 1933, when prohibition was repealed, and is now the number one drug problem in the United States. Kramer said the same can happen with marijuana. He said there will always be ways to circumvent the system to get the drug. For example, in California, where medical marijuana has been legal, Kramer said people who might not need it are finding ways to get prescriptions.And with legalized usage come other issues, he said, such as dependency, crime, and introducing nonusers to the drug-user culture.“I think that these bills fail to see a lot of the peripheral effects of making something legal or decriminalizing.”Whether or not marijuana is physically addictive has been disputed by advocates.Cohen said there are 35,000 marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania each year, many of whom are people suffering from a painful condition. He believes if marijuana was legal for the sick, it would lose its appeal as a recreational drug.“Once passed, this would seriously protect patients who really need it from arrest,” Derek Rosenzweig, co-chairman of Philly NORML and an advocate for Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana. “If they’re within state law, the chances of them getting arrested are slim to none.”Rosenzweig and Wilhelm are urging supporters to call or write to their legislators.Cohen said the bill, which has six co-sponsors, needs 102 votes in the state House and 26 votes in the Senate to pass. The bill is currently in committee with the Health and Human Services.“I personally think Pennsylvania doesn’t have to wait and be the last state. We have shown we can recognize a good idea. We don’t have to wait until all 49 other states have done it,” Cohen said. Local Legislators Skeptical  Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township, said he hasn’t had time to review all aspects of the bill and couldn’t comment one way or the other.“There are other things in Harrisburg that are more important right now than legalizing marijuana,” Vogel said.Rep. Jim Christiana, R-15, Beaver, said he doesn’t think this is a political debate that state government should be involved in.“The FDA has not approved it, and that’s the first step in legalizing it.”Rep. Jim Marshall, R-14, Big Beaver, said unless he hears some overwhelming support from the district, he would likely vote against the bill.“My gut feeling would be that I would not support it. ... I’ve heard that chemically, carcinogens in marijuana are the same that are in tobacco. Inhaling could cause lung cancer or other internal damage.”A message left for Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Ambridge, was not returned.  Personal Experience   A former local woman agreed to speak with The Times about her use of marijuana as a treatment for Bipolar Type I disorder on condition of anonymity.On some nights, she said, she is jolted awake by panic attacks and heart palpitations. A couple drags from a marijuana pipe and a prescription Xanax are usually enough to calm her nerves and allow her to get back to sleep.Now in her 30s, the woman said marijuana has benefited her many times when prescription medication has failed. She has been prescribed Xanax since her late teens and says she is now addicted to it. She has been on a number of other medications over the years that she said didn’t work. Today, her medications include Lexapro and Geodon, used to treat anxiety and major depressive disorders, and Prilosec to combat stomach problems and nausea.She said nothing works better than pot. It stops her nausea.“But they want me to take this addictive drug,” she said. “If I lived in a state that allowed medical marijuana, I would be a candidate for it.”She said marijuana has helped ease not only her anxiety, but also her horrible stomach problems. But it’s not something she would readily tell her doctors, she said.“I don’t want to be put in that (drug-abuser) category,” she said. H.B. 1393   • Cohen’s H.B. 1393 would allow anyone with a “debilitating medical condition,” including people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, Crohn’s disease, severe nausea, muscle spasms or a condition for which treatment produces severe or chronic pain, to use small amounts of medicinal marijuana.• The bill would bring Pennsylvania in line with 13 other states where prescription cannabis is legal. Neighboring New York and New Jersey, along with Illinois, Minnesota and New Hampshire, are considering similar bills.• People in Pennsylvania under Cohen’s proposal would have to go through the normal process of being diagnosed with a written record and certification from a doctor. Patients would need to apply to the state Department of Health for an identification card.• Once approved, patients would be allowed to purchase, grow or possess no more than six plants and have up to one ounce of marijuana in their personal stash at one time. Nonprofit “compassion centers,” would legally sell the medical marijuana. All sales would be subject to Pennsylvania’s 6 percent sales tax, and buyers would have to pay an annual $50 state fee. Cohen said the bill would generate millions of dollars for Pennsylvania.Source: Beaver County Times, The (PA)Author: Larissa Theodore, Times StaffPublished: Sunday, May 17, 2009Copyright: 2009 Beaver County TimesContact: timesletters timesonline.comWebsite: Articles: Support Bill Making Medical Marijuana Legal Marijuana Worth a Look

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Comment #3 posted by Vincent on May 18, 2009 at 08:01:52 PT:

Very true, FoM. Well said!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on May 18, 2009 at 07:58:39 PT

They scare me because they fight and argue over anything that might keep them relevant. Dems just aren't as aggressive I don't think. Hawks and Doves seems to mean more then war to me.
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Comment #1 posted by Vincent on May 18, 2009 at 07:37:47 PT:

Republican ignorance; Democratic cowardice
In this article you will notice that the three politicians that were against the Medical Marijuana were Republicans. The only Democrat that was questioned about it was afraid to answer.'Nuff said!
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