Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2016
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Reporter


Far out. It's taken much longer than it rightly should have, but the 
Pennsylvania Legislature is on the cusp of approving a bill that 
would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in the Keystone State.

We are not fans of much what is happening these days in the state 
Capitol, where partisan gridlock is now the norm, and where 
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders in the House and 
Senate lobbed grenades at each other for nine months in an extended 
budget standoff, a crisis that had real effects and hurt real people 
and key organizations.

But we applaud the move this week to approve use of pot to ease 
suffering by people dealing with serious illnesses such as cancer, 
epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, seizures and other life-altering maladies.

The measure had already passed the House. This week it received a few 
minor tweaks form the Senate. In Harrisburg, since Republicans 
control both chambers of state government, they decide what becomes 
law and what does not. Don't believe it? Just ask Wolf, who saw his 
campaign promise of a huge increase in education spending - funded by 
a whopping tax hike - die a slow, agonizing death as Republicans 
stood steadfast against hiking taxes.

But this week Republicans, who have indicated opposition to the 
medical marijuana issue, say it could wind up on the governor's desk 
before the end of the week.

It's easy to poke fun at this kind of measure as the product of some 
Cheech and Chong movie run amok.

That's not the case. There are legitimate arguments made by law 
enforcement and medical organizations to the trend - best exemplified 
by new laws in Colorado - to legalize possession of small amounts of pot.

This legislation does not do that.

What it does is offer sensible treatment to people - as well as their 
loved ones - in the throes of chronic medical conditions. We're 
talking about children who suffer from epileptic seizures. A parade 
of just such heart-rending family sagas has gone to Harrisburg urging 
passage of the measure.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, who represents parts of both Delaware and 
Montgomery counties, has been the measure's foremost proponent. He's 
reached across the aisle (yes, they still on rare occasions do that 
in Harrisburg) to Republican Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County to 
champion the bill.

If the bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would join 23 other states - 
including New Jersey - that have approved use of marijuana for 
medicinal purposes. The drug would then be available to them in pill, 
oil or ointment form. The process would be subject to state 
regulation, including licenses for those who grow and process medical 
cannabis. Doctors involved in prescribing it will need to register 
with the state. Patients seeking it will need an ID card, one that 
must be renewed annually.

Both the House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill. 
But - and in Harrisburg there is always a but - there is a problem. 
The version passed by the House was changed in several important ways 
before being sent to the Senate. There is concern that more changes 
sought by the Senate could "light" a whole new debate, again delaying 
common-sense legislation that desperate families already have been 
deprived of for too long.

The arguments against expanded use of marijuana - especially in this 
kind of medical form  reek of the worst kind of images conjured up by 
trite old movies such as "Reefer Madness." In fact, some of the 
arguments put forth by opponents in Harrisburg look like they were 
taken from the campy flick.

There also is the persistent argument that legalization of medical 
uses for marijuana would inevitably open the door to increased 
recreational use.

That is an argument for another day.

Right now, the Legislature has a rare opportunity to offer relief for 
suffering Pennsylvania families.

The bill already has been watered down from its original form. New 
delays would simply create new hardships for people who have already 
known too many.

And at the same time reinforce the widespread belief that nothing - 
regardless of its benefits - is beyond the partisan wrangling that 
defines politics in Harrisburg these days.

House Republican leaders have expressed support, but still say they 
will wait to see exactly what the Senate sends them before signing 
off on the bill. It's been long enough. Use of medical marijuana has 
been on the fire in Harrisburg long enough. It's time to pass this 
bill, and offer some needed relief to individuals and families who 
have been deprived some simple relief for too long.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom