Pennsylvania State Representative Mark B. Cohen (D) introduced legislation late last month that would legalize medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania.
The bill, HB 1393, would allow doctors to legally prescribe marijuana to their patients. It also allows for the establishment of state-authorized “compassion centers” where medical marijuana patients can legally purchase marijuana as well as providing patients with a registry identification card that identifies them as legal medical marijuana users.
During a news conference discussing his introduction of the bill, Rep. Cohen spoke of medical marijuana’s history. “When public hearings were held on making marijuana illegal by the federal government in the 1930s,” he said, “the American Medical Association testified against it, pointing out the medical uses of marijuana. Prohibition has long since ended for alcohol. It is now time to end the prohibition of the medical use of marijuana.
“Once word came out that I was planning to introduce this legislation, I began receiving phone calls and letters from patients telling me how much legal medical marijuana would greatly alleviate their suffering,” he added. “There are lots of people in every legislative district with cancer, wasting diseases, and HIV demanding we act to allow them to live their lives without pain. In listening to their stories, I know introducing this legislation is the right thing to do.”
When asked to comment, Derek Rosenzweig of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (Philly NORML) told the Examiner: “This bill is about giving patients the protection from arrest that they deserve. Some of them already illicitly obtain marijuana to use as medicine, sometimes also under an unofficial recommendation from their doctor. Many patients REFUSE to use cannabis, even though it could make their quality of life much better, BECAUSE it is illegal. HB 1393 will enable patients to get away from the black market situation, which can be stressful, inconsistent, expensive, and sometimes dangerous. Having compassion centers where qualified patients (with a valid card ID) can go and obtain their medicine will help immensely.”
In March, Rosenzweig invited Rep. Cohen to attend a seminar with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey to discuss marijuana’s benefits. “I do think that New Jersey’s [recent medical marijuana] bill helped push ours along,” Rosenzweig said.
California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, 12 other states have passed bills protecting medical marijuana users. Although popular with the public, these laws remain controversial as they have long been in direct conflict with federal law that does not recognize marijuana’s theraputic applications. Attorney General Eric S. Holder has pledged to stop raids on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, in keeping with President Obama’s campaign promise to cease federal raids on dispensaries.
By Sean McDonnell