The Politics of Pot in Pennsylvania: A Mother’s Response

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Last Friday, NY became the 23rd state to pass a bill for the medical use of marijuana. It’s a very limited bill. It’s limited to only patients with certain maladies all because the Governor wants it that way.

Why does he feel he needs to pick and choose which patients will get possible relief and which ones will continue in their suffering? How did he choose which could get the treatment and which couldn’t?

Does he think that a child with seizures is worth more than a soldier who wants to relieve the horrors of war that continuously run through his brain in a torturous loop? That is what he implies when he allows the child with seizures to qualify to receive medical marijuana, but ignores the soldier who suffers from PTSD.

Is Governor Cuomo just plain cruel? I would hope not, but his actions make me question that.

As I live in Pennsylvania, we face a Governor with an even more limited stance and a governor that will not even meet with any families except two that he hand-picked while ignoring scores of others. I guess I should expect this kind of behavior from politicians. After all, they really don’t understand what it is that we are all going through.

Some of them don’t even care. Their interests lie in other areas far away from the entangled history and propaganda that surround this plant. They do not feel comfortable being put in the position of having to decide medical issues, nor should they be! But, they are also the ones that put themselves in that position when they made it illegal 77 years ago!

The people who should be helping us make our medical decisions are our doctors. Where do they stand on this issue?

Well, again, it depends on who you ask. It’s about as divisive a topic in the medical community as it is in the political arena. The Pennsylvania Medical Society headed by Dr. Bruce MacLeod announced that it does not support legalizing the compassionate use of marijuana for medical purposes in our state right now. He says that there is not enough research and that he is concerned with unknown long term safety issues. He even used an example that maybe it would help seizures but what if it caused, for example, cancer of the esophagus five years down the road.

As the mother of a child with intractable epilepsy, I find this position to be very ill informed and insulting! Even a quick study would tell him that cannabis was sold as a medication for 90 years in this country! From 1850-1941, it was prescribed by doctors and regulated for safety and content by the FDA. It was even made by reputable pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Parke Davis!

Upon further study, he would find that there has been a lot of research done on this plant for the last 40 years. Most of it has been done in Israel by Dr. Mechoulam with his research being funded by American dollars through grants from the National Institutes of Health. The research is so promising in both safety and efficacy that even a British Pharmaceutical company is in clinical trials with a drug they made out of isolated compounds of this plant. Trust me, if the medical research was not solid, there is no way a pharmaceutical company would be putting millions of dollars into making a drug out of this herbal powerhouse.

As for long term safety issues, I think 90 years of previous medical usage should point to the fact that it is safe. If that were not enough, patients in California have been using cannabis safely for 18 years now. Israel has been using medical cannabis successfully for many years in children and adults with no safety issues. There was a federal program in which several patients enrolled in from 1978- until the government closed it in 1991. Two of those original patients are still receiving cannabis every month from the U.S. Government.

One of those patients, Irv Rosenfeld, testified at our recent Senate committee hearing about how , despite having a disease that makes him grow malignant tumors on his bones, smoking 7-8 cannabis cigarettes a day has kept him pain and tumor free for over 30 years now with no adverse effects.

Can the same long and short term safety standards be said for any of the 27 tried and failed pharmaceuticals my son has been on for seizures and behavior over the last 17 years? No!

These FDA approved medications have caused numerous problems in my son and many others. Side effects like mouth sores, immune suppression, agitation, aggressiveness, liver damage, hyperglycemia, hyperactivity, insomnia, hyperlipidemia, increased seizure activity, weight gain, psychosis and violent rage attacks have all occurred due to these “safe” and clinically tested medications. As for long term safety, most of the medications he has been on have never been tested long term. One that he had taken for 11 years is now found to damage the synapses in the brain with long term usage.

I don’t bring any of this up to fault the pharmaceutical industry or any of my son’s physicians, merely to point out the hypocrisy of saying cannabis is dangerous when it does, in fact, have a better safety profile than most pharmaceuticals.

So, in the end, really , what neither the doctors nor the politicians fully understand is this: we are not asking for your blessing, we are not out to just get high, we are not using this as a “trojan horse” to legalization, and we are not interested in your war on drugs! We are patients and parents of patients that want relief from the suffering that tortures us every day! Relief that has NOT been found from current pharmaceutical methods. Relief that has strong anecdotal proof to exist when using cannabis.

In short, we want our plant back!

What God so freely put on this planet, you had no right to take away. Seventy – seven years ago, you took an effective herbal medicine from us and you did it without one single solitary shred of scientific evidence to back up your claims of its danger. As a matter of fact, I wonder if Dr. MacLeod is aware that the American Medical Association of 1937 fought hard to ensure that cannabis stayed available as a medicine or that the AMA considered it a very effective and safe treatment option for patients at that time (a time when the medical establishment was more beholden to the patient and healing rather than profits and pills).

So you can do your research, and we encourage you to do so! But in the meantime, since that could take years, please don’t waste one more solitary second playing around with our lives. Years, months and weeks have passed while we have tried to educate you and ask for your compassion on this issue.

While you are counting the number of sessions you have left and what issues to vote or not vote on, we are out here writhing in chronic unrelenting pain, vomiting from chemo, and being tortured by horrible memories. We are counting the minutes our children are contorted in seizures. We are wiping the blood off of their heads from seizures that cause them to fall. We are desperately praying and watching the second hand on a clock while staring into their now blue faces begging God to let them breathe again.

We are doing this all while watching our counterparts in legal states experiencing the healing and relief we can only dream of.

Governor Corbett and esteemed members of the General Assembly, please do not let happen in Pennsylvania what is happening in other states! Please do not play God by doling out this much needed plant to some patients but not to others. Don’t restrict cannabinoids or delivery methods; to do so would, again, leave many people untreated. It would be the cruelest of fates to be the patient that can’t receive help because their disease didn’t “qualify”. With all due respect, you really don’t have the right to make that judgment call.

We have an amazing bill with SB1182. It is inclusive, comprehensive and has incredible safety and security measures for plant, patient, and physician. It could become the gold standard model for other states to follow. Please pass this bill and allow us to use cannabis in a compassionate manner. The benefits clearly outweigh any risk to patient and/or society.

Photo Credit: Ian Peters under (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr