Pubdate: Thu, 14 Apr 2016
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press


The House Voted 149-46 in Favor; Gov. Wolf Will Sign Bill

HARRISBURG (AP) - Pennsylvania is set to become the latest state to 
legalize medical marijuana as the Legislature sent a bill to the 
governor on Wednesday, after parents of children suffering from 
debilitating seizures circulated the Capitol urging lawmakers to act.

The House voted, 149-46, capping several years of door-to-door 
lobbying by parents and more than a year-and-a-half since the state 
Senate first approved a medical marijuana bill in 2014. Gov. Tom 
Wolf, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign it.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, lawmakers promised to legalize medical marijuana 
by the summer, before voters get a chance to decide a ballot question 
in the fall election.

Pennsylvania would become the 24th state to legalize a comprehensive 
medical marijuana program, according to the National Conference of 
State Legislatures.

The issue has been driven by parents who believe a marijuana oil 
extract can help relieve the daily seizures that have left their 
children in wheelchairs or functioning far below their grade level. 
Some say they worried that the next seizure will kill their child.

Christine Brann, of Hummelstown in suburban Harrisburg, said that 
every day without a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania is a risk 
for people who believe their suffering child may not survive another day.

"Every day we roll the dice on our child's or our loved one's life," 
said Brann, whose 5-year-old son, Garrett, is diagnosed with a severe 
form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians 
and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could 
take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor or liquid form but would not be 
able to legally obtain marijuana to smoke or to grow their own.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society opposed the bill and one opponent, 
Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, warned that the bill violates federal drug 
laws and that the state would see a drastic impact on addiction and abuse.

"There's serious consequences associated with this monumental piece 
of legislation," Baker told colleagues during floor speech before the vote.

In Ohio on Wednesday, lawmakers set an aggressive schedule for 
legislation that would allow licensed doctors to prescribe edibles, 
patches, plant material and oils. State Rep. Kirk Schuring, a Canton 
Republican who chaired a medical marijuana task force, said it will 
prohibit home growing - which he says is too hard to control.

Lawmakers said that polling during a more sweeping ballot campaign 
that failed last year made clear to the Republican-controlled state 
Legislature that the issue wasn't going away.

Ian James, who led last year's marijuana legalization effort, called 
the House proposal historic.

"We've never had in the state's history a time when the Statehouse 
has so thoroughly vetted medical marijuana, considered its positives, 
its negatives and brought so many people together," he said.

In Pennsylvania, the legislation's list of 17 qualifying diagnosed 
conditions include cancer, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson's disease, 
post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple 
sclerosis, AIDS and glaucoma.

Physicians must be registered by the state to certify that a patient 
has an eligible condition and a patient must get a Department of 
Health-issued ID card.

The legislation's drafters say they expect it would be two years 
before regulations

are written and retailers are ready to sell to patients. However, a 
safe harbor provision in the bill would allow parents to avoid the 
wait by legally buying medical marijuana from another state for their child.

Cara Salemme, whose 9-year-old son Jackson has suffered daily 
seizures for the past four years, said parents will immediately seek 
help for their children, if they haven't already.

"There are many people in Pennsylvania who aren't waiting, they're 
healing," said Salemme, of Spring

Grove, near York. "We'll definitely do what we need to do."

Diana Briggs, of Export, near Pittsburgh, said she hopes to help her 
15-year-old son, Ryan, who suffered a brain injury at birth and has 
suffered from daily seizures since that have left him in a 
wheelchair, unable to talk or walk. Nothing has worked, including 
pharmaceuticals, stem cell therapy, diet or electrical nerve 
stimulation therapy, Briggs said.

Ryan's doctors believe medical marijuana could help him, she said.

"If it can alleviate these seizures, I can't imagine what he could 
accomplish," Briggs said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom