Thursday, August 19, 2010

Medical Marijuana Hearing Thursday at Pitt

A Pennsylvania House committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that would legalize medicinal marijuana in the Commonwealth. The meeting will focus specifically on medical and law enforcement testimony. Pittsburgh Attorney Patrick Nightingale is the director of the local chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and says the medical benefits are clear. He says marijuana reduces spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, nausea for chemotherapy patients, and inner ocular eye pressure for those with glaucoma as well as chronic pain. And he says concerns that marijuana is a gateway drug are baseless, noting in California where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1996, "studies have shown no correlation between medical marijuana use and an increase in teen drug use."  The Pennsylvania law would have "compassionate use centers" be responsible for growing, taxing and distributing medical marijuana and Nightingale says these centers are already used in other states like Colorado, New Mexico and Maine. The bill would also let medicinal marijuana users grow up to six plants and possess an ounce of pot.  The legislation would hand the Pennsylvania Department of Health the responsibility of overseeing, regulating and enforcing laws. And Nightgale thinks the bill will pass easily noting "a Franklin and Marshall poll from May shows 80% of Pennsylvanians either strongly support or somewhat support medical marijuana in the state. I've never heard of poll numbers like that and if you're following those numbers it should be a no-brainer for the legislators to say hey, my constituents want this, we're going to do it."

The hearing takes place Thursday August 19 at 3pm at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

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