One man stands between the people and medical marijuana

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Our dysfunctional legislature hits new highs for foolishness

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

TimesPoliticsUnusualGreetings from one of the last Internet outposts not hacked by the Chinese (we don’t rate) or calling from (allegedly) Microsoft Technical Support to assist you with your computer issues once you give us your password, credit card number and home address information.

In comparison, the recent shenanigans in the state legislature probably seem a bit like the work of amateurs — I mean they don’t even bother to fake the caller ID — but in some ways, they may prove more troubling.

And while there are dozens of examples of why our state legislature acts like the worst of today’s reality shows, here’s two that may typify things, one measure blocked by one legislator and another blocked by the entire state house.

First let’s discuss medical marijuana.

As we all know, medical marijuana is highly dangerous and in the hands of unauthorized users can led to long-term addiction and fatal overdoses. Oh wait, those are opioids like Percocet — which are perfectly legal for doctors to prescribe and the abuse of which have directly or indirectly led to the recent explosion of heroin abuse in our community.

No, we’re talking about marijuana, which poses a terrible, terrible threat to the nation’s Doritos’ supply. In fact, we’re really only taking medical marijuana — not recreational use, but rather prescribed by a doctor to, you know, make someone less sick or help them to get out of pain.

Now, of course, those radical hippies in the state Senate — and man, do I want to party with those wild folks — passed SB 3 to legalize the prescription of marijuana and THC-based medicines in Pennsylvania.

Which sent the measure to the state house, spoiler alert: buzz kill!

One statehouse member, Rep. Matt Baker (R-68 — obviously, since it’s clear he owes someone one) — has moved single-handedly to protect Pennsylvanians from doctors prescribing medicines to patients in need. As chairman of the House Health Committee, he, by his own self, can stop the legislation — which polls support show overwhelming support by the public — dead in its tracks.

Democracy in action, baby.

Baker claims that the use of marijuana for medical purposes needs more research and that the federal Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t signed off on its use and it might be dangerous to use.

More dangerous than opioids?

Critics also point out that Baker has taken large amounts of bri… — uh campaign donations from large pharmaceutical companies, which may have something to do with his steadfast and courageous battle to preserve the state’s Doritos population. And it has nothing, nothing, I assure you, to do with the fact that marijuana can’t be patented easily and probably would be a lot less profitable for big pharma than continuing to sell opioids. Right.

And before you cry foul about besmirching the reputation of the state representative, the next person who can reasonably explain the difference between bribery (paying money to an elected official to get an outcome) and campaign donations (paying money to an elected official to get an outcome) will be the first one to do so.

Whether the state should legalize recreational use is another matter — and I can see why there would be issues with that and far more and than one elected official against it. But this is for trained medical professionals to prescribe to actual patients to take them out of pain, or allow them to eat during chemotherapy.

That one man can stop those folks from getting help is pretty sad.

Personally, I don’t use anything illegal. My sins amount to a few craft beers, a cigar or two and some, gasp, reality TV. I don’t think anyone has even offered me a joint since the Clinton Administration and more than likely Reagan was president the last time I consented and even then, it was never really my thing.

But it’s hard for me to see stopping legitimate medical use of a substance far less dangerous than many others routinely prescribed by doctors. It makes even less sense that one man can stand in the way of something the overwhelming majority of people in the state support.

Now, moving onto something with a little less (read virtually none) support:

Elsewhere in stupid political pet tricks, the entire state house voted no on the budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Aside from the fact that the tax proposal was, well, pretty out there (proposing a tax on diapers and day care was either naive or Rendell-style arrogant), bringing it up for a vote, as the GOP did, was nothing short of a political stunt. And yes, the Republicans, as often seems to be the case of late, totally outsmarted the state’s Democrats, who were forced to vote against it. That led, predictably to emails and “district newsletters” from Republican State Representatives crowing about how Wolf’s budget is so bad that “not one” Democratic state house member voted yes on it.

And yeah, it is pretty awful — but at the same time, the state needs more revenue and it seems like Wolf threw everything at the wall hoping something might stick, some of it far-fetched or even foolhardy, some of it worth discussion.

The funny thing: even the GOP recognizes the need to increase taxes — and is proposing increases to both the income and sale tax to help close the state’s structural deficit.

If we could get past this sort of political theater, maybe it would be possible to get real work done, such as a viable, long-term solution to the public pension problem and finally resolve the liquor privatization issue.

Any hope for a final budget deal by the state’s June 30 deadline is pretty much dwindling at this point — and this may well drag out through the summer, as both sides seem more fixed on scoring points than solving problems.

Such is the state of our commonwealth’s government.    Send article as PDF   

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  1. barry says:

    should just be legal. medical in some rare cases…this is just a midway step which i consider a waste of time and I think if should be taxed and available in state stores.

  2. Ima Dawn Baker says:

    Matt Baker can kiss his political career goodbye ! Here’s hoping he dies an awfully painful death without benefit of the pain relieving medicine he desperately needs !!

  3. Brian Kelly says:

    When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

    Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

    Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

    Support Medical Marijuana Now!

    “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

    “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

    “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

    “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

    “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

    “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

    “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003

  4. Brian Kelly says:

    Fear of Medical Marijuana Legalization is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever.

    So please, all prohibitionists, we beg you, give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Medical Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of Medical Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for medical marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing sick patients and senior citizens in pain for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than daily handfuls of deadly, toxic, man-made, highly addictive, narcotic pain pills and other pharmaceuticals.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

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