Editorial: Legalize medical marijuana statewide

In recent years, the currents of social progress have swept through the country. 

Medical marijuana legalization has been a part of this change, as 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized or are in the process of legalizing it, including neighboring New York and New Jersey. It is time that Pennsylvania joins them. 

State senators Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, and Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, agree.

They are the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 1182. Also known as the “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act,” the bill would legalize and regulate medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania. Recently, Folmer spoke at a town hall meeting in Export, Pa., and said, “This isn’t about the high. This is about care.”

Medical marijuana has been proven to help control epileptic seizures, decrease anxiety, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and ease pain associated with multiple sclerosis for patients under professional medical care. 

Despite the benefits, this medically auspicious initiative isn’t without challengers. While the bill passed unanimously through the Senate Law and Justice Committee this summer, members of the House have expressed opposition. 

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House majority leader Mike Turzai, said, “ … the vast majority of members in our caucus believe the states should not be in business of deciding what is or is not medicine,” when the bill passed in June. 

Miskin is correct, which, paradoxically, is why he is wrong about this bill. Yes, medical decisions should be left primarily to medical practitioners and patients. If medical professionals find that a particular treatment is effective and not threatening, they should not only allow — but pursue it.

Contrary to popular myths about marijuana, an April 2014 Journal of Adolescent Health study found that states with legalized medical marijuana did not see an increase in teenage cannabis usage. Additionally, the Journal of the American Medical Association internal medicine released a study on Monday that also debunked negative views on the matter. The study found that between 1999 and 2010, states allowing medical marijuana had 25 percent fewer fatal prescription drug overdoses than those that did not.

Instead of obstinately rejecting proven scientific progress, Pennsylvania should work to join its 23 proactive peers. By not passing Senate Bill 1182 his summer, Pennsylvania failed to help its citizens. As Pennsylvania citizen Cara Salemme said on Pittsburgh Norml’s, an organization devoted to reforming marijuana laws, website this summer, “The seizures don’t wait for the fall session to start again.” 

This fall, our representatives cannot wait either. According to a recent Franklin and Marshall poll, 84 percent of Pennsylvania’s citizens favor the legalization of medical marijuana. 

Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and many other states have legalized medical maruijuana — it’s time to add Pennsylvania to the list.