Medical marijuana will be legal in Pa. this year, says Sen. Daylin Leach

Daylin Leach. Credit: Provided
Daylin Leach is pushing to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Credit: Provided

One of the most progressive leaders in the state of Pennsylvania is continuing the fight for one of the most progressive issues in our country today: medical marijuana.

Well, marijuana law in general is one of the most progressive, but as Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) preaches: one step at a time.

Most recently, Leach — also a congressional candidate — has co-sponsored the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, the first medical marijuana bill introduced in Senate history with bipartisan support. Senate members from both sides of the aisle are supporting the bill, especially after testimony last month in the Senate Law and Justice Committee from medical professionals and parents of children who suffer from Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy in which a form of marijuana has eased seizures in young children.

Why focus on medical marijuana for children with Dravet syndrome?

There are these children who have epilepsy. They have sometimes 100 seizures a day. In order to help them, we give them these horrible medicines that don’t work. They’ve developed a strain of marijuana that is not smoked and cannot get you high. It’s an oil under your tongue. There’s almost no THC. Eighty-five percent of kids have had 90 percent or greater seizure reductions. If this oil came from anywhere else on the planet, it would be in every CVS and Rite-Aid. But because it comes from marijuana, people become irrational and lose their minds. I’m speaking about Gov. [Tom] Corbett specifically.

How has Corbett responded to all this?

He says weird things like, “It’s a gateway drug.” We’re talking about giving a 3-year-old oil under the tongue. How that translates into that 3-year-old being a crackhead down the line doesn’t make sense to me. What he says is obviously not his real reasonsing. The only thing I can think of is he gets tied up in this idea of culture wars. This is just about giving people medicine. This isn’t about listening to The Doors and eating potato chips.

What’s next for the medical marijuana bill?

Very soon, we’re going to have the support of the majority of the state Senate. When we have 26 co-sponsors, [Corbett] can’t say that’s not enough. We’ll have rallies. We’ll follow the governor around the state. It will be interesting to see if the governor says no to a child. Some of the battles we fight, we know they are for the long term. I think we can win this year.

Will Corbett sign?

This will pass if Gov. Corbett says he’ll sign. I think Gov. Corbett will eventually have to do it. Corbett is trying to look like a human being running for re-election. “We need to help kids and school, health care; gay people are apparently discriminated against.” As part of the “I’m a human being tour,” I don’t think it’s consistent with that, pointing at little children who are dying and saying, “Nope, I can’t help you.” I can promise you, we’re going to keep the pressure on.

On a separate issue — what do you think about legalizing recreational marijuana?

I personally support that. I’ve introduced legislation to do the same thing here they do in Colorado. What we need is full legalization and treat it exactly like alcohol — tax it, you can’t buy it unless you’re 21, you can’t smoke and drive. I believe it will eventually happen. We’ve seen support for prohibition crumble in the polls. Once people actually start thinking about it, they are for it.

 

What the Pennsylvania Medical Society says

Michael R. Fraser, executive vice president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, testified at the bill’s testimony hearing last month.

“We acknowledge that there is some evidence, primarily anecdotal, that marijuana may provide relief from nausea to cancer patients, and it is asserted that it may aid in the treatment of glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder. We are also aware of recent news stories that oil derived from cannabidiol has aided some suffers of Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy.”

He went on to say that “anecdotal evidence is just that.”

“That cannot be applied to others’ experience with great degree of confidence,” he added.

The American Medical Association and the PA Medical Society have supported “well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious conditions.”

He said the PAMED doesn’t discount its efficacy rate on patients, but the group would rather build “a better body evidence that allows physicians and other providers to make science-based decisions about the use of marijuana in the treatment of their patients.”


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