Medical Marijuana

David Trawin / flickr

Support for legalizing medical marijuana is growing in Pennsylvania, according to a poll conducted by Robert Morris University.

The survey showed 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, up from 56.1 percent in a similar RMU poll last year.

Dank Depot / flickr

The debate over medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania has long transcended political parties -- instead, it’s dividing people into groups that see marijuana’s medicinal possibilities and those waiting for more definitive research.  

Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is getting a second look Wednesday in the state Senate. It’s been about a year since the matter had its first hearing in the Legislature, and since then, it’s gone from a fringe issue to a center-stage policy debate.

Most people have attributed that progress to a group of mothers known as “mama bears,” who want medical marijuana to treat their very ill children.

Among them is Latrisha Bentch.  There was a time when her oldest daughter Anna was not sick but she was still just a little different.

State House lawmakers plan to hold at least one hearing on medical marijuana, which will likely put off any final votes on legalization until next year.
 
House GOP leaders say a Senate-backed plan to allow certain kinds of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania needs to be more thoroughly vetted before it’s lined up for a vote.
 
“What exactly does it do? Do you guys know what it does?” said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin, addressing reporters. “Do you know it sets up a whole new bureaucracy and industry?”
 

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

 It's been a busy week in Harrisburg, PennLive and Patriot-News editorial and opinions Editor John Micek joins us to lay it all out.

Topics include: the eight former and current state officials alleged to be involved in an exchange of hundreds of racy emails using state computers, calls for protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians and the Senate passing legislation to legalize certain kinds of marijuana.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the state Senate with overwhelming support and now heads to an uncertain future in the House.

The GOP House majority leader opposes the measure.

But one Republican in House leadership is on the record in favor of medical marijuana. And within the past week, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) has scaled up his ambition for pushing the plan. It used to be a next-year priority. Now, Vereb is trying to send it to the governor within the next month.

A proposal to legalize certain kinds of medical marijuana will go to the full Senate for consideration Wednesday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he expects the measure to pass after it received overwhelming and bipartisan approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The panel's lengthy debate revealed concerns that there hasn’t been sufficient medical research on marijuana. But supporters said their sympathies are with parents of children afflicted with seizures who are desperate for a better treatment.

The state House may not snuff out a medical marijuana legalization plan, after all.

A top House Republican is supporting an effort to legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, in the first indication that the opposition of the chamber’s majority could thaw.

At a rally on the Capitol steps Monday, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) said his change of heart on the issue came after seeing footage of seizure-stricken children whose severe epilepsy could be treated with cannabis.

A plan to legalize medical marijuana could be taken up by the full state Senate in the four weeks the Legislature is scheduled to be in session this fall.

The measure to create a regulatory framework for growing and prescribing medical cannabis got a key Senate committee vote in June.       

GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said Wednesday that his caucus will discuss next week whether they can pass the plan.

“It has broad support in the caucus,” Pileggi said. “I haven’t counted heads, and I can’t tell you if it’s 13 or 23.”

Special series: This week we're exploring legislative action taken recently in Harrisburg on important bills that were overshadowed by the passage of the state budget.

For the first time bill to legalize medical marijuana has made it out of committee, and some state Senate members are confident that they can get it passed soon.

A measure to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania could be ready for a state Senate committee vote this month, supporters say.

The bill would set up state oversight of doctors to prescribe marijuana for a range of illnesses, said Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), the Republican leading the charge for medical marijuana.

“Whether you’re suffering from epilepsy, diabetes, various forms of cancer, post-traumatic stress syndrome – I could go on,” Folmer said.

Gov. Tom Corbett has reversed his opposition to legalizing a certain kind of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The governor said Thursday he’ll support a proposal to make it available to people suffering from debilitating seizures.

Spokesman Jay Pagni said Corbett shared his decision first with parents and families advocating for medical marijuana in a private meeting Thursday in Harrisburg. A notice was sent simultaneously to other families who have been advocating for legalization, Pagni said.

Mark / Flickr

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania hoped a meeting with Governor Corbett might change his stance on the issue. These advocates threatened a sit-in if the governor refused to see them. 

It looks like their threats paid off. 

Despite a recent Quinnipiac University poll which showed 85% of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of medical marijuana, 90.5 WESA Capitol Correspondent Mary Wilson said Corbett remained steadfastly opposed, until this afternoon.  

"Corbett is quoted in a press release this afternoon saying that he will support a bill to allow research based hospitals to prescribe this oil extract which is from the marijuana plant." said Wilson

"Of course it's going to need the approval of the legislature but the leader of the senate Republicans has said that he will support this. And that he looks forward to sending the bill to the governor's desk."

Gov. Tom Corbett is changing his position on medical marijuana and is backing the legalization of a marijuana extract to treat severe seizures in children.

Corbett's office confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that the Republican governor is meeting with several parents to tell them about his decision.

Corbett had been under pressure from parents who believe the oil extract, called cannabidiol, can save the lives of their seizure-wracked children. Democrats running to challenge Corbett in the fall election also favor the legalization of medical marijuana.

Proponents of legalizing medical marijuana say they’ll stage a sit-in outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s office unless they get a meeting they’ve requested with him.

Parents and grandparents of sick children voiced their hopes that the governor might be persuaded to support legalization with an in-person meeting. With Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who is running for Congress, they’re demanding a response this week, or the sit-in is a go.

Medical marijuana is expected to be the subject of an upcoming hearing at the state Capitol.

A state Senate proposal would allow a derivative of the substance that advocates say could treat severe cases of epilepsy in children.

Sponsoring Republican Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County said he’s always thought the prohibition against medical marijuana didn’t make much sense.

A New Push for Prescription Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Jan 16, 2014
KayVee / flickr

For the first time in the state Senate’s history a medical marijuana bill has been drafted with bipartisan support.

A poll conducted last year shows state residents support the use of medical marijuana. New Hampshire and Illinois legalized it last year.

Could Pennsylvania be next?

Heather Shuker of Valencia, Butler County, is the mother of a 10-year-old girl with intractable epilepsy who says her daughter is in "desperate need of medical marijuana." 

Because of people like Heather, State Senator Daylin Leach, along with Senator Mike Folmer, introduced the legislation, known as SB 1182, earlier this week.

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t budging from his stance against legalizing medical marijuana.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently reported the governor had “softened” his position after a spokesman said Corbett would consider changing his mind if the Food and Drug Administration deemed the drug a valid medicine.

But the spokesman later said Corbett’s stance is unchanged.

Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, who is running for Congress, said Corbett should know the ball isn’t in the FDA’s court on this issue.

Two state senators, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, are planning to introduce a bill to legalize a certain form of marijuana for medicinal use in Pennsylvania.

Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer said Monday their bill would help ensure Pennsylvanians can get medical benefits from cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana that's credited with various medical applications without providing a high.

Gov. Tom Corbett won’t be budged by public opinion polls when it comes to marijuana.

Support is high for legalizing the drug when obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

But Corbett has said making medical marijuana legal will not rule out abuse of the drug, because prescription drugs are abused now.  

"This is a gateway to many other drugs," he said. "I believe we have a drug problem in this country. We have a drug problem in the state of Pennsylvania."

Corbett made his remarks on the Radio Pennsylvania “Ask the Governor” program.