Capitol Report

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces First Public Hearing

The Legal Intelligencer

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Protest for the legalization of medical marijuana
Protest for the legalization of medical marijuana

The state Senate law and justice committee heard some passionate testimony on why marijuana should be legal in Pennsylvania to treat certain medical conditions, but the legislation, SB 1182, still faces significant obstacles in Harrisburg.

Gov. Tom Corbett said he would veto a medical marijuana bill because the drug's use is prohibited under federal law. The position of the state's doctors, through the Pennsylvania Medical Society, is that more research is needed to demonstrate the drug's benefits.

"We have a lot of anecdotal information of the benefits, but we're really waiting for the FDA to do more research into how it works to help people with certain medical conditions," Pennsylvania Medical Society spokesman Chuck Moran said.

For some of those testifying, marijuana has worked wonders. A combat veteran, Joe Mirt, told committee members about how marijuana helps him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. With marijuana, he no longer suffers from headaches and his vision has become clearer.

Medical marijuana use is legal in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Colorado and Washington voters in November referendums each legalized recreational use of the substance.

The bill has bipartisan support, with its two prime sponsors making an unlikely team: state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, and state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon. The pair are nearly always on opposites sides of policy issues. But an aide to Folmer said the Lebanon County Republican had heard enough stories about the benefits of the medical use of marijuana that it convinced him to sign on to the Montgomery County Democrat's bill.

SB 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, would legalize the use of medical marijuana by patients as recommended by attending physicians. The hearing marks the first time the Pennsylvania General Assembly has considered such a bill.

A statement from Leach's office said the bill has the support of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the Dauphin County coroner, researchers, attorneys, veterans, medical professionals and the families of children who would benefit from the bill's passage.

State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, chairman of the committee, said the committee will continue to accept testimonies and will consider the bill further in coming weeks.

— John L. Kennedy, for the Law Weekly

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