Passionate speech from KCC Executive Director, Les Stark
I have been told that it takes five years to pass a bill in the General Assembly in Harrisburg. Five years. Does anyone know how long it has been since the first bill for medical cannabis was introduced in Pennsylvania? It was introduced in 1979. That means it is 35 years that the citizens of Pennsylvania have been waiting – 35 years!
That bill died in committee of course but after a lull of 30 years Pennsylvania finally had a medical cannabis bill re-introduced five years ago. The current bill was introduced nearly a year ago. How long are the people of Pennsylvania supposed to wait? Would you have us wait another 35 years perhaps?
Most of those who needed it 35 years ago are dead. Of what use was it to deny them their medicine? Some of those who needed it five years ago are dead too and their suffering still lingers in our minds. Sadly, some who needed it one year ago have also died. Some people are dying right now. Will you let them die to without relief?
My uncle Butch Kilhefner served as a Marine Corps Infantryman in Viet Nam. After he came home and got out of the Marines he signed up for the Navy and went back to Viet Nam. I was a kid when he was in the war but I remember watching the news, hearing the stories and then greeting him when he came back from his second tour in Viet Nam again.
He was a hero to me. It was his inspiration that led me to join the Marine Corps and serve as a Tank Crewman on the M60A1 Tank and his inspiration caused my brother Jim Stark to join the Navy where he served in the first Gulf War in WWII, serving on board what was to become the most badly damaged American warship since 1991 – the USS Princeton- after it suffered the blast from three surface and underwater sea mines.
A bit over a year ago, I visited my uncle Butch in the hospital. He had lifelong complications from Agent Orange. His liver was failing. For three weeks before he died he suffered from constant and severe nausea. He could not keep food down and had to be fed intravenously. None of the medication they gave him could combat his nausea.
Medical cannabis would not have saved my uncle Butch’s life. Agent Orange had been dogging him all his life and what he had could not be beaten. However, during the last few weeks of his life, his suffering could have been alleviated and could have at least had a break from the dreadful nausea. My uncle Butch hated cannabis and never used it, not even in Viet Nam. He would have used it though when he needed it.
I am almost 49 years old. The older you get of course the more people you see suffer and then die, the more loved ones leave us. It is always tragic and heartbreaking. Who would deny a cancer patient that is going through chemo therapy right now the opportunity to use cannabis to ease their suffering? Who would let them die and do nothing to allow them to ease their suffering with cannabis? Who would tell them, “I’m sorry, there is an election coming up and frankly, we don’t have enough time?”
Would our Representatives in the State Legislature tell them that? Would Tom Corbbett tell them that?
Make no mistake, the 85% support for medical cannabis does not all come from people who need it for themselves. I do not need it. There is nothing wrong with me. Medical cannabis will not benefit me one bit. I am motivated out of compassion, moved by not only my own experiences of watching loved ones suffer who could have benefited from medical cannabis, but because of my involvement in this movement I have come to know the advocates who we have come to know as the Mama Bears. I see the travails they are going through, the hardships they must overcome and there constant, relentless vigil over their seizing children. Any one of those seizures could result in death. My heart breaks for them, for how they and so many others are denied a natural medicine that is not only non-toxic but can produce in many instances miraculous changes and amazingly positive health outcomes.
My organization, Keystone Cannabis Coalition is disappointed in the amended version of SB 1182. We believe that whole plant cannabis must be allowed and the list of conditions should be expanded. Still, we are equally dismayed that even this meager offering to the public is being spurned by some in the House leadership and vehemently opposed by Governor Corbett.
This bill will go to Tom Corbett and get signed because the people are demanding the legislature to act now. If it does not, then Tom Corbett will watch from the sidelines as our next Governor Tom Wolf signs a medical cannabis bill into law.
The nearly 3,000 signatures collected by Derek Rosenzwieg in the last two weeks is representative of the millions of Pennsylvanians who support medical cannabis in this state. The people of Pennsylvania have waited long enough! Do not make us wait another 35 years. Do not make us wait another five years! Do not make us wait one more year!
We urge the House leadership and the Pa. House of Representatives to do the right thing. Allow SB 1182 to come to a vote. Do not say to our loved ones, “I’m sorry but there was not enough time”.