House Bill Pushes PA To Legalize Marijuana
Dec 01, 2009 - Kyle Lawson, Tribune Review
Pennsylvania -- Stephany Bowen suffers from fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy and chronic pain from four back surgeries, a metal plate in the back of her neck and hypertension in her right leg.
Her daily ritual includes
insulin, Vicodin and up to two bowls of marijuana, which she claims
eases nausea caused by her medication and takes her mind off her pain.
She said she is unable to work and rarely leaves home. Her marijuana use is a crime under state law, but she is hopeful that one day that will change.
"I believe it does have medicinal qualities to it," said Bowen, 46, of Penn Hills. "Since marijuana is grown naturally, it should be legal."
Momentum supporting that position is growing. Since 1996, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana.
State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 1393 in April that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. A public hearing is scheduled tomorrow in Harrisburg before the House Health and Human Services committee.
The bill aims to ease the lives of suffering patients, take money away from the drug trade and create about $25 million a year in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, Cohen said.
"The bill has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming law, but I think that health care groups will lean toward it," he said.
Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, chairman of the subcommittee on drugs and alcohol, said the decision to legalize marijuana should rest with the medical community.
"Doctors should determine whether there's a place for the drug in the treatment of their patients," he said.
The American Medical Association last month changed its position on medical marijuana, urging the federal government to reconsider pot's classification as a Schedule 1 drug. The goal is to clear the way to conduct clinical research and develop marijuana-based medicines, according to the association.
The AMA's statement was a topic of conversation recently at the first meeting of Pittsburgh NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws.
A group of about 20 members, who ranged widely in age and profession, discussed methods of spreading information about medical marijuana.
"We will be organized and professional," said Patrick Nightingale, a Downtown defense attorney and founder of Pittsburgh NORML. "We're not a bunch of freaks getting together to get stoned."
Nightingale, a former Allegheny County assistant district attorney, said he supports complete legalization.
"It concerns me as an attorney that I've had to prosecute and defend folks for conduct no different than buying a six-pack or bottle of wine," he said.
Tomorrow's public hearing is a small step forward for supporters of the bill, but with just six co-sponsors there's a chance it will never reach a vote, said Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.
"Marijuana is still considered a gateway drug, and a lot of the people who are fighting for this bill want to use the legislation as a step-off point for legalizing all marijuana," said Vulakovich, a former police officer.
Gov. Ed Rendell maintains his position on medical marijuana, said spokesman Gary Tuma.
"If a reasonable, well-crafted bill reached his desk," Tuma said, "he would sign it."
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Author: Kyle Lawson, Tribune Review
Published: December 1, 2009
Copyright: 2009 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
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