Getting ready for a renewed push, state Sen. Mike Folmer says medical marijuana legalization is a ‘no brainer’
Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer, the Lebanon County conservative who emerged this year as the unlikely face of medical marijuana legalization, is getting ready to do battle again when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
In an interview taped for broadcast Sunday on CBS21’s “Face the State” program, Folmer said he’s already scooped up supporters for his bill — including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.
“We will continue to educate constituents and colleagues on why we should do this,” Folmer told CBS21 anchor Robb Hanrahan.
He said he’s scored some prime legislative real estate — his bill will be known as “Senate Bill 3,” denoting its importance and prestige. In general, the lower the bill number, the more important it is.
Folmer teamed with Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, one of the General Assembly’s most liberal members, to cosponsor a legalization bill during the legislative session that ended last month.
Both men even separately traveled to Colorado, where marijuana sales are legal, to see how the system worked. And, in Leach’s case, to sample some of the local product.
“This is a no-brainer,” Sen. Mike Folmer. The unlikely duo scored a major coup by getting a bill out of the Senate — and the provisional support of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett — but the bill hit a brick wall in the state House.
Things could be different next year when Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who supports medical pot and the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, takes office.
In addition, one of Wolf’s chief lieutenants, incoming Policy Secretary John Hanger, is an ardent legalization supporter.
Folmer said his bill includes language the Senate passed last session. And he’s already hearing from legalization advocates who want him to expand the conditions that would be eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, including glaucoma and fibromyalgia.
The bill got hung up last session with debate over what conditions would be eligible for the treatment.
As he did earlier this year, Folmer said he’s trying to take the partisanship out of the debate and position it as a public health issue.
And with Pennsylvania facing a tide of heroin overdoses, Folmer views medical marijuana as a non-addictive painkiller that would avert the kind of prescription drug abuse that often leads to heroin addiction.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
And with the state set to face a $1.8 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends next June 30, Folmer said he’s come across a sure money-maker: legalizing industrial hemp production in the state.
“There’s a great potential for economic impact in Pennsylvania,” — without raising broad-based taxes, he said.
“Face the State” airs Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on CBS21. PennLive Opinion Editor John L. Micek and “Donkeys & Elephants” columnists Tony May and Charlie Gerow are panelists on the program.