The Clinic: PA. Senate Approves Medical Marijuana, Gov. Readies Veto

Every Democrat in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and 20 out of 27 Republicans, voted last week in support of a measure that would legalize medical marijuana in highly restricted forms and for only a small percentage of patients in need. But the state’s governor and attorney general nonetheless oppose the measure, claiming that cannabis’s medical utility remains unproven, and any legitimization of its use would lead to increased drug abuse by minors.

Back in May, Republican Governor Tom Corbett abandonded his former zero-tolerance hardline on the issue, announcing that he would support a law making concentrated marijuana extracts available to children with severe epilepsy.

“I have met with parents of children who have Dravet Syndrome and other related severe seizure disorders to discuss a medically responsible proposal that would allow access to cannabidiol (CBD) in Pennsylvania.” Corbett said. “I have been looking at this issue extensively over the past few months and listening to many perspectives,I have heard the concerns and heartbreaking stories of these families and want to help. However, we must address this issue in a way that helps these families, but also protects the public health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”

But Corbett is now poised to reject a law so strict it doesn’t even allow smoking of marijuana, often the most effective means of quickly, effectively delivering the plant’s medicine to a patient. And only a small number of qualifying conditions would be allowed in the bill that just passed the Senate, including cancer, epilepsy and seizures, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia, severe fibromyalgia, wasting syndrome, traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome.

This, of course, leaves many who would benefit from medical marijuana without safe, legal access. While the Governor’s presumed veto will condemn even those who would qualify to continue either suffering without cannabis, or breaking the law to get it — including the very families whose “heartbreaking stories” he heard firsthand.

“It is cruel and heartless to deny people the best medicine that is available,” Pennsylvania state senator Daylin Leach commented during floor debate, while pushing for a far more robust medical marijuana program. “It’s time to stop treating this irrationally and saying, ‘we’re not going to let you have this, we’re going to instead make you take far more dangerous and less effective drugs.’ That’s just not how we would want to be treated; it’s not how we want our families to be treated.”

Governor Corbett, meanwhile, faces a reelection challenge on November 4th from Democrat Tom Wolf, who supports medical marijuana.

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