Cannabis reform rally in Kirby Park burns with passion
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.”