A bill introduced in the state Senate Tuesday, Jan. 14, would make Pennsylvania the 21st state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
But don’t count on the bill becoming law anytime soon.
Gov. Tom Corbett has refused to sign any such bill until the federal Food and Drug Administration approves cannabis for medical purposes.
Nevertheless, the bill’s bipartisan sponsors — state Sens. Daylin Leach, D-17, of Upper Merion, and Mike Folmer, R-48, of Lebanon County — are lobbying hard for its passage.
Leach has launched a social media campaign highlighting children who could benefit from medical marijuana. Folmer plans to hold a public hearing designed to educate his fellow legislators on the benefits of medical cannabis.
Medical marijuana, the senators argue, particularly would benefit children who suffer from severe epilepsy. They cited accounts of medical cannabis reducing seizures among children with epilepsy. The drug would be prescribed in liquid drops.
“This is a drug we need to get to these kids,” Leach said. “If it were a derivative of a yucca plant, it would be in every CVS in the country.”
Leach said the drugs will not contain any tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. The drugs only will include the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol.
“We can’t even get you high,” Leach said. “You’re not smoking it. You put it under the tongue. It’s a no-brainer.”
Leach has long supported legalizing marijuana for medical use, but this marks the first time he has had bipartisan support. He and Folmer initially announced their intentions last November.
“This is a people issue,” Folmer said. “This is a health issue. This is about making sure people have every weapon in their arsenal to do battle with their disease.”
Folmer, who is recovering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said government should not stand in the way of people’s ability to combat diseases. He said it is hypocritical to permit doctors to prescribe drugs like Oxycodone, but not medical cannabis.
“I still think there is a mass of misinformation on what my bill is trying to do,” Folmer said. “My bill isn’t about rolling up a marijuana cigarette for a child to smoke.”
Leach also supports legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, but said that is a battle for another day.
Folmer declined to discuss his views on recreational marijuana, saying the debate clouds the push for legalizing medical marijuana. Only Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana.
Despite the efforts of Folmer and Leach, the bill is unlikely to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
“We don’t have any plans to consider it in 2014,” said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic F. Pileggi, R-9th Dist., of Chester.
Corbett has said he will not sign any bill legalizing medical marijuana, respecting FDA regulations. The FDA labels marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, a status that restricts the clinical trials necessary for approving drugs.
The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.
Leach is among at least four Democrats running for the 13th U.S. Congressional District seat. His competition includes physician Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies and state Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-170, of Philadelphia.