Cannabis reform rally in Kirby Park burns with passion

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Blog

WILKES-BARRE — Elizabeth Whah lost her 19-year-old son Taylor to cancer two weeks ago.

And if cannabis couldn’t save his life, she believes it may have at least eased his suffering.

Taylor Whah, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, wanted to pursue the fight for marijuana law reform, his mother said. She has taken up the fight in his place, touting marijuana’s medicinal benefits in controlling pain, nausea and vomiting.

“There’s no reason in the world for this to continue,” Whah said at the Wilkes-Barre Cannabis Reform Rally held Saturday in Kirby Park. “On any level.”

Whah, of Kelayres, was among the speakers at the event organized by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, a newly formed nonprofit group, with the help of the Northeast Pennsylvania Cannabis Network.

Speaking with the Times Leader over the music of George Wesley, Whah slammed changes made to state medical marijuana Senate Bill 1182, also known as the Compassionate Care Act. The bill cleared the senate floor last week in a 43 – 7 vote, with last minute modifications posing strict limitations on the drug’s administration.

Whah said the bill in its current form is no longer a medical cannabis bill, but a cannabis product bill and insisted it needs to be passed without restriction or distortion.

KCC executive director Les Stark, of Berks County, said he wants the rally to “teach, inspire, educate and motivate” people to create the change his coalition believes Pennsylvania needs.

“We believe that no one should ever go to jail for a plant. Especially this plant,” he said.

Stark called on Wilkes-Barre City Council to adopt a decriminalization measure similar to the one passed in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

He said the political climate is moving overwhelmingly in that direction, and the turnout of easily more than 100 people in the first hour of the rally proves Wilkes-Barre has a solid base of support for such measures, he said.

Any issues arising from marijuana use, Stark added, are better controlled in a legal, regulated environment which takes power away from criminals.

The Keystone Cannabis Coalition favors full legalization of marijuana, but works to accomplish what’s “politically possible,” according to secretary Erica McBride.

Retired Philadelphia police Capt. Ray Lewis, whose arrest at Occupy Wall Street has been watched by thousands on YouTube, also spoke against prohibition at the rally.

“It’s nothing but a cash cow for police, lawyers, judges and, worst of all, the prison industrial complex,” he said

In 10 years as a patrol officer, Lewis said, 90 percent of the problems he encountered dealt with intoxicated people. He said none of those problems came from people using marijuana, and enforcement of its prohibition steals resources from police who could be dealing with “real crimes.”

Beyond those points, he said the medical benefits of marijuana have been proven conclusively.

And as Elizabeth Whah recounted her son’s final, agonizing days, she reinforced the devastating impact the denial of those benefits has on patients and families.

“Had I have been able to obtain marijuana products for my son during his illness without breaking the law,” she said, “it may have saved his life.”

 

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Times Leader Reports on Wilkes Barre Reform Rally

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Blog

WBCRR_4_page

After recent victories around the Keystone State, marijuana activists are headed for Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“Dispelling the fear and the ‘Reefer Madness’ mindset people still cling to is what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Erica McBride of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.

The group, in cooperation with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network, will host a cannabis reform rally from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Kirby Park. The rally will feature several speakers, including a former Philadelphia police captain and a few medical marijuana patients, as well as musical entertainment from local reggae act George Wesley.

Jesse Novatski — the formerly anonymous founder of the cannabis network — also plans to speak. The Clark Summit man said an outpouring of local support following a Times Leader article featuring his group convinced him to take his support public.

He said some of the support came in the form emails from parents who said they’d before never thought of using marijuana for their children’s health issues, but were considering it after reading the article.

“They’re just parents, they’re patients, they’re everyday working professionals,” Novatski said. “I’ve learned that there are many faces of a cannabis supporter.”

More than 450 people have responded to the event on Facebook. However, McBride said she expects the turnout will likely be lower.

The rally comes little more than a week after Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed a bill decriminalizing cannabis possession in the state’s largest city, and just days after Senate Bill 1182, sometimes called “the Compassionate Care Act,” cleared the state Senate floor in a 43-7 vote in favor of the medical marijuana bill.

McBride said the cannabis coalition, based just outside Reading, is less than pleased with some last minute changes made to the bill, but still views its passage from the Senate as a victory.

“They severely limit the conditions that qualify you, which is disappointing,” she said. “We’ll just have to keep fighting for everyone else.”

McBride said the coalition plans next year to throw its support behind an industrial hemp bill as well as decriminalization efforts.

But the coalition doesn’t plan to stop with easier access to medical pot, or even statewide decriminalization, instead favoring an end to prohibition, she said. However, McBride added, the group is “all about pushing for what is politically possible.”

Learn more about the Wilkes-Barre Cannabis Reform Rally on Facebook.

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Statement on SB 1182

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Blog


Keystone Cannabis Coalition Statement on SB 1182

We here at the Keystone Cannabis Coalition express both elation and disappointment over the recent passage of the amended version of SB 1182.

The original bill was not perfect, however it was deemed acceptable to the vast majority of advocates for medical cannabis and would have helped tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of sick Pennsylvanians.

We followed the bill closely from the beginning. Early on we recognized it as a bill that we could support and we did everything in our power to advance it. On March 31 of this year we held the large and successful Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally in the Rotunda of the State Capitol to raise awareness. We were assisted in that rally by Dana Ulrich and Lolly Bentch Myers, two of the fierce “Mama Bears” who spearheaded the movement.

In May we stood on the steps of the Rotunda in the State Capitol with state senator Daylin Leach and a dozen Mama Bears and advocates and threatened Governor Corbett with a sit-in if he did not meet with families of the advocates.

We held rallies in Lancaster, York and Reading this summer and called attention to the medical cannabis bill, gaining much media coverage. We attended both hearings in the Law and Justice Committee. We attended several town hall meetings, met with our representatives and state senators and attended numerous press conferences, panel discussions, meetings and events. We even approached Lancaster City Council and wrote a resolution in favor of medical cannabis that they then passed, which generated enormous press coverage.

In short, we did everything that we could to advance medical cannabis in Pennsylvania and Senate Bill 1182 as we then understood it to be written.

We are dismayed by the conditions taken out of the bill. Taking out medical cannabis for those suffering from AIDS was just heartless and cruel for example. Also, we support whole plant cannabis that can either be vaporized or “smoked”. For many, especially those suffering from cancer and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and other illnesses, smoking and/or vaporization is the best method of ingestion.

We are remaining somewhat neutral on this bill with subdued support. We do not support it completely but we do not oppose it. If it is passed it will be a step forward but too small of a step. We believe that there is a good chance this bill will die in the House of Representatives without a vote. If it does receive a vote it is likely that it will only occur after the House has amended the bill even further and renders a bad bill even more useless. Further amendments that water the bill down even more will arouse our fierce opposition.

Tinctures, oils and edibles have their place. Making those products available will help thousands and even tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, eventually. The list of ailments needs to be expanded though and all forms of the medicine should be available. We believe that the wait will most likely be entirely too long for patients to even receive medical cannabis and urge the quickest possible implementation of any bill that becomes law.

The citizens of Pennsylvania know that cannabis is medicine. Medical cannabis consistently polls at between 80-85% support and this has been true for years now. The Pennsylvania State Senate has awoken to this truth, convinced by the advocacy of citizen lobbyists and expert testimony during the Law and Justice Committee hearings. The 43-7 vote was astounding and demonstrated overwhelming support. Unfortunately political posturing on the part of some Republicans forced the bill to be crippled with harmful amendments before it could be voted on.

Governor Corbett sets the tone. He has threatened to veto SB 1182 even in it’s severely amended and restricted version as passed. For this reason Corbett has a reason to either keep this bill from ever reaching his desk or, getting a CBD-only bill that he will sign to try to make it look good for his re-election. Representative Mike Turzai can single handedly stop the vote. Or it could get held up in committee by Representative Baker. Or, the time clock could simply run out before it gets done.

This is a high stakes game filled with all sorts of political intrigue. No matter what the outcome we can not let Corbett win on November 4th. Keystone Cannabis Coalition wholeheartedly endorses Tom Wolf for Governor of Pennsylvania and urges voters to get registered and make sure they show up to the polls.

The reason that we do not condemn or oppose the bill entirely is because we do believe that under a Tom Wolf administration we will get the bill amended to include more conditions and also expand it to include whole plant cannabis, though it will be harder to change it once the bill is passed than to just win with a better more expansive bill.

One way or the other the fight continues next year. If the bill fails this year as expected then it will have to be reintroduced next year. If so, then we want to start from scratch again with another well crafted bill. We take it that the bill that will be reintroduced will be even superior to the original SB 1182. We will be stronger next year, hopefully with a new governor and the times will be much more in our favor. If the current version of SB 1182 is passed by miracle in the House of Representatives and then in a cunning move by Corbett, signed, then next year we will fight to perfect the law and also ensure its prompt implementation.

This whole past year was a learning experience for Pennsylvania. One year ago it would not have been possible to get as far as we have. Who could have guessed that the Pennsylvania State Senate would vote in favor of ANY medical cannabis bill?

The media coverage has been relentless and positive. Rallies all over the place. Editorials in newspapers around the state calling for medical cannabis. Legislators jumping on board and even candidates for governor. We have just gone through an accelerated rate of change, an evolution in understanding. That evolution continues, too slowly for many of us advocates, but at lightning speed on the time continuum.

So many positive things have come from this whole movement that it is hard to remain pessimistic even if cynicism does get the best of us sometimes. As our friend Chris Goldstein from Philly NORML reminds us, nothing is positive until patients get their cannabis. We agree. We are getting there but far too slowly.

We look on the bright side and remain optimistic even as we remain hard headed realists. We are committed to the fight for as long as it takes and will continue to do all that we can to advance the cause of full access to medical cannabis in Pennsylvania while hastening the day when the national prohibition of cannabis and hemp falls.

We also realize that until the root cause of prohibition is addressed it will be hard for people to obtain their legal medical cannabis. For this reason we recommend immediate statewide decriminalization as an interim policy as we work towards full legalization.

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Pa. legislative session opens with medical marijuana rally

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blog

HARRISBURG — Speaking passionately about his bill that would legalize medical marijuana, Sen. Mike Folmer could not help himself from using a football analogy.

With 11 working days left in the current legislative session to pass Senate Bill 1182, Folmer said lawmakers are at the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter. And the clock is ticking.

Folmer’s bill, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, would legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Pennsylvania. It cleared the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee in June.

Folmer, a Republican serving Dauphin, Berks and York counties, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 marijuana activists on the Capitol steps Monday morning, insisting that his bill is close to passage.

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