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The History of Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

by Sarah Syakira
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The history of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania starts long before there was even state known as Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana was actively used in the colonies in the early days of the United States to treat everything from ear aches to digestive problems. This includes the great state of Pennsylvania. It did not start to be questioned as a medical treatment until the THC found in many strains of pa medical cannabis cause psychological disturbances in some people.

The medical marijuana movement has been actively working to legalize marijuana for medical in the State of Pennsylvania. Part of the reason for this is the difficult a lot of the community of legal marijuana users are having trouble getting their medicine through the legal channels available to them. There are different strains and formulas used to make medical marijuana and not all are always available. Shortages at dispensaries across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were a frequent occurrence. Legal medicines that were not marijuana generally did not have this problem and legalization would push the growth and distribution of medical marijuana products into focus as a needed medicine.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana was introduced into the Pennsylvania legislature by senators Daylin Leach (Democrat) and Mike Folmer (Republican), who co-sponsored the bill (HB741) and pushed to have it reach the Senate floor. There were many proponents of the bill who celebrated the introduction of it as a step forward in healthcare reform. There were also a lot of dissenters in the house who opposed the bill as something harmful to the people as a whole. It was thought by these members that the state should not be in the business of deciding what is or is not medicine. It was considered part of the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration, not elected officials.

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Also read: Cannabinoids: Composition and Usage in Medical Care

If the legalization bill passed, medical marijuana would be treated like alcohol is in the State of Pennsylvania. There would be legal areas for people to establish grow operations to grow the various strains needed for particular illnesses.  There would be shops to sell it to medical marijuana cardholders and they would just be able to walk in, show their card and be able to buy the strain they would need.

The push was also encouraged by researchers wanting to study the various strains of medical marijuana in the treatment of many illnesses. At the same time as this medical marijuana bill was up for voting, Governor Corbett was proposing a pilot study to see research the effects of cannabis oil in treating children with epilepsy. This bill was expected to railroad any universal marijuana legalization as Governor Corbett was against legalization.

In the weeks leading up to the vote on the legalization of medical marijuana, dozens of families and individuals camped out, outside the state capital to show support for the legalization movement. Legalization and decriminalization of medical marijuana would be a huge step forward for people who need marijuana to treat various conditions and these families couldn’t give enough support. A lot of stories also emerged about the lengths people were going to; to get the strains they needed and hide them. Many patients admitted to using medical marijuana to treat illnesses ranging from chronic pain to cancer patients. Many hid the use and tried to downplay their connections to it. They didn’t want to hide it anymore, but they still couldn’t be open about it without going to jail.

The medical community was careful about their position on the matter. They did not want to openly support the legalization bill because of the funding they could lose or the stigma that would be connected to their companies, but many saw it as an important step forward in their study of medicine as they could not even study it without risking jail time. They also favored the “compassionate” use of medical cannabis for many people that are well beyond medical treatment. They also voted in favor of asking the state senate for money to fund research into strains of medical marijuana for medical purposes. They also want to see what else could be successfully treated with medical marijuana so they could expand the list of allowable conditions for the use of it.

On April 17, 2016, the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to legalize the possession, sale, and consumption of medical cannabis products. For a user to buy and consume these products, they would still need to go through appropriate channels to obtain a medical marijuana card, but with this bill passing, more strains could be legal grown as well as more dispensaries open for public use. It also meant more research could begin into the various strains of marijuana and effective treatments could be published and more people would be able to be treated without the fear of criminalization.

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