With growing support nationally for medical marijuana, advocates in Pennsylvania say now could be the time for Pennsylvania to get on board.
State Rep. Mark Cohen, of Philadelphia, said he plans to re-introduce legislation in the House that would provide for medical use. Cohen's proposal and one in the Senate have been stuck in committee due to the lack of Republican support, but Cohen said the increasing popularity in the public could force the issue.
"I would hope that the Corbett administration would recognize that it's only being responsive so far to a fraction of the population as a whole," Cohen said. A May 2010 Franklin and Marshall College poll showed that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana. Medical marijuana expert Dr. David Bearman said there are several reasons more Americans support the use of marijuana for the treatment of conditions such as cancer, HIV and glaucoma.
"I think that people are moving past the big lie and I think this has been one of the most effective big lies in world history," he said. "One of the reasons we're moving past the big lie is that they're seeing that people who they know, who they care about using it and, not only are they not going mad or growing horns, but they're actually getting some benefit out of it."
Hey Pa.: ‘Get your heads out of your asses’
Jay Lassiter, a Cherry Hill political consultant who is HIV positive, said he hopes Pennsylvania will heed what is going on across the border in New Jersey.
“I hope they realize that this issue is very much in context with public opinion,” said the 40-year-old. “Basically, I hope the Legislature in Harrisburg get their heads out of their asses.” New Jersey’s first Alternative Treatment Center opened last week in Montclair, N.J. Lassiter, who is registered for the program and already smokes, said it has been a long fight for those who need it.
“When I got the word that the doors opened in Montclair, my response was emotional, it was happy and it felt like Christmas came early,” he said.
Obstacles to passage
Gov. Corbett has said he would veto any bill legalizing medical marijuana and Republican leaders have voiced various concerns, including the potential for abuse, despite research showing that marijuana use does not lead to more harmful drugs. Cohen said the problem is the lack of pressure on state lawmakers to address the issue, even as neighboring states like New Jersey and Delaware have embraced it. “There’s no professional association, doctors or nurses or hospital administrators [pushing for it],” Cohen said. “There is some momentum, which should make it easier, but ultimately we’re going to have to get Republican support in order for this to become law.”