Highs and lows of legalizing medical marijuana in PA

Lauren Savana, Centurion Staff

For the past five decades, the ongoing issue of the legalization of medical marijuana in the U.S. has only grown more controversial.
The leading source for “Controversial Issues” states that since 2015 under state law, medical use of cannabis is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Yet under federal law medical marijuana is still illegal to consume throughout the U.S.
The property of marijuana used to treat disease or improve symptoms is certain chemicals in cannabis called cannabinoids (CBD). Cannabinoids are very high in antioxidant compounds and are very low in THC Tetrahydrocannabinols.
“Cannabis, or marijuana, has been used for medicinal purposes for many years.” The Departments of Clinical Pharmacy and Family Medicine (DCPFM) reported.
“Although criminalized in the United States in 1937 against the advice of the American Medical Association, cannabis was not removed from the United States Pharmacopoeia until 1942,” says DCPFM.
They go on to report that marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug under the umbrella that includes heroin and methamphetamines. Patients can only be treated through statewide programs and cannabis dispensaries in locations where medical use of this drug is available for patients that qualify.
There are two FDA approved drugs that use certain cannabinoids in the U.S. Dronabinol and Nabilone that can be taken in pill or liquid form. They have been known to help with nausea and pain during the process of chemotherapy for cancer patients.
These forms of THC/CBD have also been reported to help with anorexia in patients that have immune deficiency syndrome. These were used as alternatives after traditional prescription drugs failed.
CNN did a report about a 2-year-old girl, Charlotte Figi, who was having seizures consistently from as young as 3 months old. She was diagnosed with a disease called Dravet Syndrome.
Dravet Syndrome is a rare, severe form of intractable epilepsy. This means the syndrome can’t be controlled by medications.
Her parents tried every option there was, at one point Figi “was on seven drugs — some of them heavy-duty, addictive ones such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines. They’d work for a while, but the seizures always came back with a vengeance.” CNN continued to report.
Finally when the Figis realized there was nothing else the doctor could do Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, turned to medical marijuana.
They had a very difficult time trying to find two doctors to sign off on the treatment since Charlotte was the youngest person in Colorado to ever apply for a medical marijuana card.
Bloomberg News did a report on young marijuana smokers and the drastic effects on brain development. It resulted in lower IQ’s and higher risks of strokes.
Since the Figis had exhausted all resources they turned to the last resort. After getting two doctors to sign they tried their first administration of a strain of marijuana called R4. This strain is low in THC and high in CBD.
After testing the oil in a lab they administered the oil to Charlotte twice a day. The results were incredible. The seizures stopped for seven days straight, CNN reported.
As more states follow the west coast into the consideration of legalizing medical marijuana, medical associations in Pennsylvania have been debating it as well.
Chuck Moran, media director of The Pennsylvania Medical Association, openly talked about the position they have on Medical Marijuana within the society. “Our current active position is in support of research on medical marijuana and to change marijuana’s status from a federal schedule 1 drug to federal schedule 2 drug so more research can be done.”
The American RSDHope Organization explains the main difference between these two classes of drugs. Schedule 1 drugs are highly toxic and have no medical purpose. While schedule 2 drugs can be considered to have a medical purpose.
Moran explains that a bill has been in the works for the past two years in Pennsylvania, senate bill 3. This bill is explained by the Pennsylvanian General Assembly as “an Act providing for the medical use of cannabis in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” This bill has been sitting in the House since 2014. The Pennsylvania Medical Association is against this bill due to the necessary research that this bill is lacking.
The annual House of Delegates meeting occurs every year in October in Harrisburg. On average 200 doctors attend to debate a resolution for the research of medical marijuana. Then after the debate whichever recommendation is agreed upon goes to the House of Delegates. They can either vote this recommendation down, up, or send it back for another report. It could lead to a different policy or change nothing.
A Board of Trustees also meets four to five times a year to debate policy. They’ve even done media call in’s and have a panel of physicians to mediate and usually the outcome is a 50/50 split.
When asked how long this debate has been going on specifically in Pennsylvania, Moran said, “This is not a new issue, it’s been going since the late 60’s.” Yet the importance of this issue has only grown larger in discussion and larger in the percentage of people that are affected by it.
When 100 Bucks students were surveyed as to whether they would vote yes or no for the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, only 3 people voted no and 2 people abstained.
Asking the students that said yes, Diamond Schuler, 20, a journalism major, said, “I don’t smoke weed and don’t really know much about it but if there are benefits they should be available to those in need.”
When asking students who said no, Jon Schoffler, 19, “I don’t understand the medical benefits to it so why would I vote for something I don’t understand?”
An article written a year after the legalization in Colorado by a community website called Common Dreams reported the state “benefited from a decrease in crime rates, a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail medical marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs.”
According to Colorado’s Department of Revenue, the state collected $40.9 million in tax revenue from retail of medical marijuana sales between January 2014 and October 2014.
As a society we shouldn’t be too dismissive too quickly because as the west coast moves forward, Pennsylvania should consider doing the same.