Ripples of Hope: Pennsylvania Parents Seek Broader Cannabis Legislation

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Photo: Latrisha Bentch and Dana Ulrich lobbying at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg

By Latrisha Bentch and Dana Ulrich

On May 2nd, 2014, several Pennsylvania families, ours included, received emails from the office of our Governor, Tom Corbett. We must admit; our initial reaction to the long overdue correspondence was not that of elation or even mild excitement, but rather gut wrenching sadness. This was not the news we had been praying for. In fact, it was the news we’d prayed we wouldn’t get.

The Momma Bears are fierce lobbyists for medical cannabis

The Momma Bears are fierce lobbyists for medical cannabis

Many of us “Mamma Bears”, as we are affectionately referred to by fellow advocates, began to lobby for Medical Marijuana based on our children’s needs. But now, many moons later, we have been in the trenches, so to speak, with veterans, cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers and so many others with varying medical conditions that many of us fight just as passionately for them.

So we immediately felt deflated when Corbett announced that he would like to draft new legislation to implement a program to research cannabis oil at two PA children’s hospitals. This program would provide access to an undetermined amount of children suffering from epilepsy.

Our question is simply this: what about everyone else? Our fellow advocates, our “CannaFamily”, what about them? Are they second rate citizens? We believe they deserve relief just as much as our children.

SB1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, would provide real medicine to all of those in need, and we must continue to fight for it rather than simply accept Governor Corbett’s extremely limited proposal.

Latrisha's daughter Anna will benefit from whole plant legislation

Latrisha’s daughter Anna (right) and Dana’s daughter Lorelei (center) would benefit from whole plant legislation

There are miles of red tape involved in initiating Corbett’s proposed research program for medical marijuana, especially given the fact that we are in a non-legal state. It could take months to pass a piece of legislation through the state’s assembly and potentially years before this type of program is up and running.

We thought this feeling of pure hopelessness would subside, but it continues to plague the Mamma Bears, made worse by the fact that several of the children we fight for will be over the age of 18 by the time this program is implemented. We have to wonder, will they be overlooked as well? Without a doubt, Corbett’s proposal leaves those with other medical conditions to fear they may never get the help they so desperately need.

Realistically, we do not have all the details yet. Is it time to throw in the towel? Are we doomed to be an island of chronically ill people surrounded by compassionate legal states? The answer is NO! The heroes inside of us know that whether Tom Corbett intended to or not, he has created a ripple, and we will continue to move forward knowing that a change is coming.

We are currently seeking testimony from parents in medical states who are treating their epileptic children with THC or THCA. We need Governor Corbett to hear from families that they have tried CBD-rich oils for their children and ultimately discovered that they cannot get effective seizure control without supplementing with THC or THCA. Additionally, parents who have successfully treated their children for other medical conditions using whole plant cannabis are encouraged to submit their testimony to us. Together we can show Governor Corbett that limiting the use of medical cannabis to CBD-rich strains only or to hospital settings alone will leave thousands of patients without the viable and effective medical treatment they deserve. Testimony should be sent to:

“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope… These ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ~Robert F. Kennedy