Pubdate: Fri, 02 May 2014
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2014 The Citizens' Voice
Author: Marc Levy, Associated Press
Page: 10


HARRISBURG (AP) - Gov. Tom Corbett has changed his position on medical
marijuana policy and now supports the legalization of a marijuana
extract to treat severe seizures in children, his office said Thursday.

Corbett's office confirmed to The Associated Press that the Republican
governor was meeting with several parents to tell them in person about
his decision. The governor remains opposed to other forms of medical
marijuana, however, a spokesman said.

Corbett had been under pressure on the issue from two state senators
and parents who believe the oil extract, called cannabidiol, can save
the lives of their seizure-wracked children. All four Democrats
running to challenge Corbett in the fall support the legalization of
medical marijuana, and some parents were preparing a sit-in at
Corbett's offices if he did not agree to meet with them.

A spokesman for Corbett, Jay Pagni, said a plan developed by the
governor in an effort to try to ease the suffering of the children,
but strictly control access, will need approval from the

Under that plan, cannabidiol, or CBD, would be dispensed at
research-based hospitals by medical professionals with experience
treating children who have severe seizure disorders or Dravet
syndrome, a form of epilepsy.

"The governor is providing an option for families seeking the use of
cannabidiol, with strict controls and under careful oversight of
doctors and hospitals," Pagni said.

Pagni said Corbett and his staff have been quietly researching the
issue and meeting with parents and medical professionals since last

Previously, Corbett had maintained that Pennsylvania should wait for
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare the drug safe for
medical use. In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved
testing a British pharmaceutical firm's marijuana-derived drug that is
CBD-based and has all of its THC removed.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now have broader laws
on medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures. Numerous other states are considering it and Florida's
Supreme Court has approved placing a proposed constitutional amendment
on the November ballot to make it the first state in the South to
legalize the medical use of marijuana.

Separately, Alabama's governor signed a law in March that is close to
the concept that Corbett is now backing, and Florida's Senate
overwhelmingly passed a similar bill on Monday.

The extract comes from a strain of marijuana called Charlotte's Web,
named after the first child treated with it. The plant is low in THC,
the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana, and high in CBD, a chemical
that may fight seizures. It can be delivered by dropper or pill form.

Parents of children who suffer seizures have traveled to the state
Capitol several times in recent months to make their case and in
January testified before a Senate committee.

They say their children suffer hundreds of seizures a week and have
lost their ability to function intellectually at their age level. They
fear that a seizure will kill their child and say they have found no
relief from numerous federally approved medications that carry
debilitating side effects.
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