Philly420: The Unfortunate Devolution Of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Bill

PENNSYLVANIA:  A group of Pennsylvania legislators has renewed an effort to pass a very limited medical marijuana products bill in 2015. Unfortunately, the legislation has evolved into a shadow of compassion that could leave too many patients behind to be truly effective. State senators Daylin Leach (D- Montgomery) and Mike Folmer (R- Lebanon) along with House Reps Jim Cox (R- Berks/Lancaster) and Ed Gainey (D-Allegheny) circulated memoranda in both houses this week.

When it was first introduced in 2009 by Rep. Mark Cohen (D- Philadelphia), the Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use of Marijuana Act offered a robust program. Cohen’s vision for safe cannabis access included dispensaries in every county, a broad list of conditions, allowed registered nurses to be an integral part of the program and had provisions for patients to cultivate small amounts in the privacy of their own homes. The bill’s name paid homage to the Republican Governor who had stood up to President Nixon and tried to stop federal marijuana prohibition in 1972.  Pa. House Committee hearings were held over several years in Harrisburg and in Pittsburgh that included testimony from potential patients, scientists, medical experts and even religious leaders. But the bill never came to a vote.

Fast forward to 2013. A group of local parents began making trips to the State House seeking a very specific form of medical marijuana for their children who live with severe epilepsy. States around the country including Florida, Iowa, South Carolina and Georgia were also focusing on this narrow group of patients. The story of children who found seizure reduction through cannabis oils extracted from specific strains of the plant had gone national after Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired a report.

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