The bill will allow use of marijuana oil and extracts, while still
prohibiting the smoking of the drug, to treat or alleviate the
symptoms of a long list of ailments including autism, epileptic
seizures and nausea brought on by chemotherapy.
The bill, which passed by a 149-46 vote in the state House of
Representatives, sets up an infrastructure for growing,
distributing, regulating and taxing medical marijuana.
Statewide opinion polls consistently show that 88 percent or more of
Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana. That reflects a 50-year
national trend toward general acceptance of marijuana, especially
among younger and more liberal Americans.
"Marijuana is medicine and it's coming to Pennsylvania," state
Senator Daylin Leach, a Democrat from the Philadelphia suburbs who
was one of two prime sponsors of the bill, said following the vote.
"Children with intractable epilepsy, veterans with PTSD,
grandparents with cancer, and thousands of other sick Pennsylvanians
will finally get the help they need."
The other prime sponsor, state Senator Mike Folmer, a Republican
from Lebanon, has said on his website that his own experience as a
cancer patient led him to believe patients "should have every
opportunity to combat their illness," including use of medical
The Pennsylvania Senate passed the Folmer-Leach bill last year, but
it stalled in the House because of vehement opposition from
Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai. A spokesman for Leach credited
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, also a Republican, with easing the
bill around the speaker's opposition.
[to top of second column]
The state's first medical marijuana bill was introduced by former
Representative Allen Kukovich, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh
suburbs, in 1979. He said Wednesday that he was inspired by early
research showing the drug benefited patients with extreme seizure
disorder, as many as 100 seizures per day.
"It never moved," Kukovich said in an interview. "It got no support
from the leadership in either party. Marijuana was being demonized
Four U.S. states, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, as well
as the District of Columbia, in the past few years have legalized
recreational marijuana use through ballot initiatives. Voters in
five more states are to vote on legalization in November. The drug
remains illegal under federal law.
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