Medical Marijuana Debate Likely to Continue in 2015

Jan 12, 2015

Advocates supporting medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania ran out of time and political good will last year, but people on both sides of the debate expect the issue to remain hot in 2015.

The health community is divided, with the state nurses' association supporting legalization, but the commonwealth doctors' group urging caution.

Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) legislative counsel Scot Chadwick said, for now, marijuana remains far too mysterious.

"What we don't know is — even if medical marijuana is helpful for certain conditions, in what strengths and mixtures," said Chadwick, "what dosage, what frequency, what the side effects might be, what the long-term effects might be."

PAMED is calling on the federal government to relax restrictions on marijuana to make it easier to study.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) has been the main champion of legalization among Republicans, who control both legislative chambers. He disagreed that more research is needed, pointing to studies of marijuana-based treatments abroad.

The Senate approved legalization last summer. House leaders remained skeptical. The focal point of opposition is Speaker-designee Mike Turzai, who has said he's wary of legalizing medical marijuana if it is accompanied by additional bureaucracy.

Folmer, who insists on calling it medical cannabis, said the "mama bears" who have lobbied for legalization on behalf of their sick children will continue to push.

"I think we've laid an outstanding foundation," Folmer said. "We're definitely much farther ahead than we were last year."