Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Daily Local, The (PA)
Copyright: 2016 Daily Local News - a Journal Register Property
Author: Oscar Gamble


UPPER MERION - Gov. Tom Wolf, state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17th Dist., 
and state Rep. Tim Briggs, D149th Dist., joined about a dozen 
advocates of the medical marijuana bill recently signed into law 
during a news conference in King of Prussia Tuesday to tout the new 
legislation and promise its swift implementation.

The law, which passed with bipartisan support, will allow marijuana 
to be used for medicinal purposes in pill form and in oils that can 
be vaporized. The bill's signing makes Pennsylvania the 24th state to 
sanction a medical marijuana program.

"This is about helping peoples' lives, about helping people that are 
going to be better, faster. They're going to feel better and that is 
just such a rewarding thing," said Wolf after thanking the state Legislature.

Wolf said states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25 
percent decrease in opioid overdose deaths and predicted similar 
results in Pennsylvania, which recorded approximately 2,000 such 
deaths last year.

"That's 500 lives we're saving by legalizing medical marijuana, so 
we're making lives better. We're making lives more comfortable. We're 
making families stronger, and we're saving lives, and that's a really 
big thing," Wolf said before turning the podium over to Leach, whomhe 
thanked for being one of the bill's major proponents in Harrisburg.

Leach said sparing approximately 500 people from opioid overdose 
deaths is just the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to the 
potential benefits of the new law.

He cited greater tolerance of chemotherapy by cancer patients, the 
alleviation of post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans and the 
treatment and prolonging of life for children with intractable 
epilepsy as some of the ways medical marijuana could help Pennsylvanians.

Leach said he hoped the federal government will soon reassess 
marijuana's current status as a Schedule 1 drug, thus eliminating 
impediments for approved use by benefit organizations such as the 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"They're doing amazing work in research in terms of cannabis and 
diabetes, and cannabis not only for chemotherapy but for actual tumor 
reduction. There are a lot of conditions that this can be helpful for 
and we're hopefully going to be making a huge difference in people's 
lives," Leach said.

Medical marijuana made the ultimate difference for Randal Ray 
Robertson, the former owner of Triple R Guitar in Lemoyne, who was 
present at the news conference, and who was diagnosed with bile duct 
cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of the disease in March 
2015. Following extensive surgery in which parts of several organs 
were removed, he embarked on what he described as a "horrific" course 
of chemotherapy that medical marijuana helped him survive.

"I was given three to four months to live without chemotherapy and 
nine to 11 with," Robertson said. "My mother started praying about it 
and someone came to my door and said, 'I heard you need the oil.' I 
didn't have any idea what he was talking about. It saved my life is 
what it did. It really did.

"It's obviously the right thing to do, that's the bottom line. People 
can finally have access to themedicine which they should have had 
access to in the beginning. To have the availability for children, 
for cancer patients, for all of us, PTSD, whatever it is, to be able 
to finally access that without persecution is a huge step. I'm saved, 
and that's a cool thing."

Leach stressed that the bill's passage represents the initial phase 
of a comprehensive mission to insure that Pennsylvanians have access 
to medical marijuana.

"It's one thing to sign a bill, that was huge step," Leach said. "It 
took two and a half years. We fought like crazy to make it happen and 
now it has happened and it's the law. But that's not the end of the 
story, that's the beginning of it.

"Now we have a process where we have to craft regulations. We have to 
implement those regulations. We have to get this industry up and 
running andwe have to get medicine to people who need it. So that is 
what the governor's visit here today is designed to start."

Leach thanked Wolf for his leadership on that front, noting that 
after signing the bill into law, the governor visited state Sen. Mike 
Folmer, R-148th Dist., to work on expediting its implementation.

"We're not going to be slow about this," Leach said. "This is 
something we're going to go full speed ahead on.

"We don't make a difference in anyone's life until they actually get 
the medicine. And so that's why we have to work overtime."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom