Rick Smith Talks with Les Stark, Exec. Dir. of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition about the Push to Legalize Medical Marijuana in PA

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog

Hemp_Sign_smLes Stark, Executive Director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, one of a number of groups pushing for the passage of Pennsylvania’s Medical Cannabis Bill, Senate Bill 3.  On top of pushing medical marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania, he is working on legalizing hemp production.

Listen to Les’s interview HERE

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Doctors debate medical cannabis at Pa. Senate hearing

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog

thHARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It was a battle of the doctors at a hearing on Senate Bill 3, a proposal to legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania.

“I think it needs study. It needs further clarification,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

“It is up to the physician to decide how to use a medicine. We use medicines every day in an off-label use, every single day,” pediatrician Dr. Jack D’angelo said.

Senators Mike Folmer and Dailyn Leach are continuing their push to get their bill passed, but they do not have the support of the Medical Society. They say there are not enough studies to show medical cannabis works.

“The concern is that we are causing harm and as a physician one of my prime goals is to do no harm. With this drug there may be benefits, I suspect there is, but we do not know which parts of the drug and what dose and what are the long term side effects,” Pennsylvania Medical Society president Dr. Bruce MacLeod said.

“There is nothing in our legislation that requires doctors to prescribe this. There are many doctors that wish to,” Leach said. “It is odd to me that an organization that represents physicians is trying to tell physicians what they can and cannot prescribe to their patients in their best medical judgement.”

At a rally after the the hearing, reaction to the Medical Society’s testimony continued.

“The only group that came to oppose this said there were no studies. That is why they were opposing it. I have a list of about 300 studies, peer reviewed, double blind,” Leach said.

“I want to help doctors and I believe that medical cannabis could be one of the tools, one of those weapons in the doctors hands that will help them heal their patients,” Folmer said,

Representative Ed Gainey is trying to gain support for medical cannabis in the House.

“Let’s stop with the distorted facts that there is no research, that there is no reports, that it is Schedule One and we want to hide behind the FDA,” Gainey said. “Let’s move everything out of the way and focus on people and make sure we provide another form of relief to the people that need it. That is what government is about.”

Watch ABC27 Coverage Here

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Pennsylvania is Poised to Pass One of the Most Comprehensive Medical Cannabis Bills in the Country

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog

medical-marijuana-hearing1-620x264Yesterday at the state capitol, Pennsylvania’s Medical Cannabis Act, Senate Bill 3, took center stage at the Capitol with a standing room only Senate hearing in the morning and a passionate press conference at high noon.  It has taken over three legislative sessions to get to this point, but State Senators Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer and State Representative Ed Gainey are poised to pass one of the country’s most comprehensive medical marijuana bills.

The fight for medical cannabis use in Pennsylvania began in 2009 when Senator Leach and Representative Mark Cohen initially introduced a bill.  The turning point in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis journey shifted after CNN aired Sanjay Gupta’s documentary on the topic.  In the CNN documentary, Gupta highlighted the story of Charlotte Figi, an eight year old who was suffering from Dravets Syndrome.  From three months of age, Charlotte Figi would have multiple seizures in a day and some of the fits lasting for as long as a half hour.  In the documentary, Charlotte is given a special strain of marijuana, Charlotte’s Web, that reduced her seizures to one time a week.

Full article from Raging Chicken Press

 

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Walking Pennsylvania Through the Steps

Posted by on Feb 21, 2015 in Blog

imagesGLPRX7W4The Pennsylvania General Assembly is a stubborn lot. Many parts of the state are rural. Often times, only a small percentage of people bother to vote. Those that do vote on a regular and consistent basis tend to be older and extremely ideological and very strict religious conservatives. The politicians of those districts run on platforms that appeal to that hardcore group and consider them their core constituents. Often times the politicians are not merely representing that constituency but arose from it and are truly a part of that culture.

Pennsylvania as I always knew it, always had a large constituency of “law and order” types. Yes, the residue of the Revolution still lingers in the air here and there is also a strong libertarian streak, but long before the 500% increase in prison population here people were angrily clamoring for the jails. After a brief liberal period it was collectively decided that the state needed to start rounding up all the bad guys and putting them in prison.

Those die hard conservatives fiercely against big government, failed programs and excessive taxation and government spending gladly paid their taxes for prisons and considered it money well spent. They were mad that the government wasn’t doing more. Out of all the criminals and bad people though, most hated was the long haired, rock and roll stoner and all who smoked the dirty hippy weed.

That’s why so many of our governors were prosecutors. Off the top of my head, Ridge, Rendell and Corbett were all prosecutors. Wasn’t Thornburgh too? Any way, the point is, if your specialty was putting people in prison then the people of Pa. wanted to make you governor, seeing no one else as deserving. They wanted “strong leaders” who weren’t going to take any liberal crap and put all the criminals, and, this whole counter-culture behind bars and away from society. They thought they could do it too. They thought that they could eliminate all pot and the people who do it. They set out to wage war on the stoners and did so with the fervent fever of Nazi storm troopers.

Times were changing all over the place but one thing did not change much. The thing that partly stayed the same to this very day is that mostly a small hardcore group of law and order, culture warriors and religious conservatives are the main constituency in many districts because they can always be relied upon to vote. For a long, long time these are the only people that our politicians have heard from. They were right to assume that the public wanted to be ruled with a heavy hand.

So far, there have been no scientific polls that indicate a majority of Pennsylvanians support full legalization. The highest poll put support at 49% while other polls show 35% support or less. The general public of Pennsylvania clearly needs to be educated on the merits of a legal, taxed and regulated market for cannabis.

Two years ago, state senator Daylin Leach introduced landmark legislation for full legalization of cannabis. It was called SB 528. It was assigned to committee and died there with no action whatsoever, not so much as a hearing.

Meanwhile, public support for medical cannabis has hovered over 80% in this state for years. Medical cannabis legislation was first introduced into the General Assembly in 2009, making this the sixth year of fighting for something that almost EVERYONE supports!

We support full legalization. We must be realistic though and honest. We see no path to legalization in Pennsylvania. At least, no way to win this year or even next year.

We are forced therefore to face and confront the stark political reality and achieve what we can. Politics is partly the art of the possible. We see where victories ARE attainable, and, more importantly, we do see the path to full legalization and we think we can bring Pennsylvania on board by 2017 or 2018.

123It is no secret that we were strong supporters of the gubernatorial campaign of John Hanger. We were sold on John’s pragmatic three-step plan to end cannabis prohibition in Pennsylvania by 2017.

John’s plan called for the immediate legalization of medical cannabis, and he wanted the strongest possible law possible that would benefit the most people possible.

For step two, he also called for the immediate or quickest passage of statewide decriminalization of cannabis.

For step three, he promised that after a two year experiment in the state with decriminalization, and after evaluating the results of states with full legalization such as Colorado, Washington, and now Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C., he would take us in the direction of full legalization.

It made sense to us. We saw that victory with medical cannabis is possible and realized the benefit to many thousands of Pennsylvanians who needed relief and could not wait for us to completely end the war. We threw as much support as we could towards medical cannabis and now we are at the point where it seems that some sort of victory there is inevitable and imminent.

Of course, we supported Tom Wolf for governor of Pennsylvania once John Hanger dropped out of the race, threw his support to Wolf who then strongly adopted the first two steps of Hanger’s plan and then made him his top policy advisor.

To Hanger’s plan, we added another micro-step. That is, the legalization of industrial hemp. Here is another bill that we believe victory is possible. There seems to be very little opposition so far to our hemp bill. Again, why should farmers have to wait until the war is over to start growing hemp? They should not, and we are going to help kick start an enormous industry. We are proud to be bringing hemp back to the Keystone State.

We expect medical cannabis to pass in some form this year. We expect the Industrial Hemp Act to be passed within a year and hope to get seeds in the ground by spring of 2016.

We can’t say for sure though how long it will take to get statewide decriminalization. Most polls show support over 60% for decrim but look how hard it is to pass medical cannabis with 85%. We know decrim will be a fight. But, Governor Wolf supports it and has promised to sign a bill if it makes it to his desk. We are waiting for a proper decrim bill to be introduced and will support that effort, but can not say for sure how long it will take. I think maybe we can get it done within two years. Part of me is skeptical that it can be done in this current two year legislative cycle but part of me is sensing by the end of next year.

It will be important to get statewide decrim as quickly as possible because we believe that the state will need to go through a possible two year incubation period with medical cannabis, industrial hemp and decrim before they are ready to abandon the war and embrace a better model of legalization that includes home grow.

handIn Pennsylvania we have to take the people by the hand and lead them through the steps. Our legislators will go along as they see that the people and their constituents are willing to take these steps.

Decriminalization is not perfect. It is not a final solution. We view decriminalization as a partial truce as we negotiate the details for a fully legalized cannabis market. If no action on statewide decriminalization has taken place by 2017 then we will abandon calls for decrim and demand full legalization. We know it’s going to take a few years but we certainly are not going to wait forever.

In conclusion, full legalization is not currently possible in Pennsylvania but medical cannabis is a near certainty, industrial hemp is very likely and statewide decriminalization may find enough support to win, after a sustained fight. We firmly believe that each of these steps are necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of ending the cruel, insane and immoral prohibition of cannabis and we will work hard on each of these points as we take Pennsylvania by the hand and lead them through the steps.

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Stay tuned and you will learn of our methods and strategies for achieving this much needed change. You are invited to join us and be a part of this great unfolding drama of history.

Les Stark Executive Director, Keystone Cannabis Coalition
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Hemp for Land Remediation in PA

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Blog

Hemp_BioremediationContamination of land and water is a continuing problem for both our environment and economy. Here in Pennsylvania we have three separate programs within the DEP for dealing with abandoned coal mines, land recycling and brownfields. Hemp can be very useful in dealing with contaminated and otherwise useless land. Conventional practices in the remediation of contamination usually involve expensive processes such as land filling or incineration of soil. Phytoremediation uses plants to accumulate certain metals in plant biomass to accelerate contaminant breakdown.

Hemp, while not known to be the ‘best’ crop for phytoremediation of contaminated soil, does hold a distinct advantage over other crops used for this purpose. Most crops grown on contaminated soil have no value outside the remediation itself, where as the stalks and seeds of hemp are still a useful crop which can be used for building products, paper, insulation, biofuel and other non-food grade products.

It also has the advantage of having a greater adaptability to different soils and climatic conditions while being an effective rotational crop which can improve soil quality. All of this is in addition to the fact that hemp requires little to no irrigation or pesticides to grow effectively.

Hemp has also been recognized as having a high capacity for phytostabilisation. Phytostabilisation uses plant structure to stabilize untitledcontaminants reducing the bioavailability and mobility of the contaminants in the soil, preventing them from entering the food chain or groundwater.

Pennsylvania’s large amount of land in need of reclamation is a perfect platform to conduct hemp research while improving the soil, environment and economy by returning many acres of land to productive use.

~Erica McBride
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