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Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Temporary Guidelines Completed

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy on Friday announced that temporary guidelines for the Safe Harbor provision of the state's Medical Marijuana Program are complete and can be viewed online or in the June 25 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The department announced that it developed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines "to thoroughly and carefully outline the specific requirements that must be followed when a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse is applying to obtain medical marijuana to administer to minors who have a physician-documented serious medical condition."

"In July, parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses will be able to apply to the department for a Safe Harbor Letter that will allow them to administer medical marijuana obtained from outside of Pennsylvania to minors in their care," said Secretary Murphy. "Once approved, the letter should be carried whenever medical marijuana is being transported outside of an individual's home."

Pennsylvania: Some Patients Could Get Medical Marijuana This Summer

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana is one step closer for patients in Pennsylvania. Some will be able to gain access to cannabis this summer, but others will have to wait a lot longer.

The wait will be over soon for patients under age 18, reports Mark Roper at Fox 43.

"The mothers are the ones who fought for this law, so their kids should come first," said medical marijuana attorney Gabe Chorno. "I have no problem with that. Unfortunately for vets and adult patients, we have to continue to wait."

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy on Wednesday morning announced the details on the first phase of regulations. Once the first temporary regulations are established, parents will be able to get medicinal cannabis for their children in other states before it is grown and available in Pennsylvania.

Parents will be required to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and receive an identification card for their child.

"The drafters of the legislation, as well as the governor, as well as the Department of Health, wanted to be sure that we assisted these parents that really were instrumental in supporting this legislation," said Dr. Murphy.

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Considers Plan To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Pennsylvania's capitol city should hear a proposal tonight (Wednesday) that would decriminalize marijuana.

Harrisburg council members are scheduled to discuss Mayor Eric Papenfuses's proposal which would lower the penalties for marijuana possession.

Marijuana possession is currently a misdemeanor that stays on an offender's criminal history. Papenfuse's proposal would reduce marijuana possession to the same level as a traffic ticket.

Under the plan, a third arrest for marijuana possession would be considered a misdemeanor. Fines are proposed to begin at $100 and increase incrementally.

The public will be able to talk to council members at the meeting Wednesday.

The proposal could be voted on as early as next week.

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg Takes Public Feedback On Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

Harrisburg, PA takes public feedback on decriminalizing marijuana

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Harrisburg may soon join the ever-growing list of US municipalities to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Dozens of people from several communities are urging city leaders to soften the penalties for simple possession.

One Harrisburg resident who only identified himself as Mark said his brother was arrested for a small amount of pot years ago.

He was “sentenced to two years in prison, brutalized while he was incarcerated and was unable to get a job because of his record and he thought and felt the only other option was to commit suicide and that's exactly what he did,” Mark said.

The new proposal would mean those found with a small amount of marijuana would face a fine of $100 the first time, $200 the second time, and a misdemeanor for any further offenses. Fines collected would go toward a drug treatment program.

“The city is not benefiting from that whatsoever,” Harrisburg police Chief Thomas Carter said. “We don't want to benefit from it, but we acknowledge the fact that we do have a problem with kids smoking and adults smoking.”

Opponents to the proposal are unconvinced and want tougher penalties.

"Do you know that every drug dealer on the city corners of Harrisburg is [sic] salivating at the mouth hoping that you'll pass this bill?” one resident asked. “Hello, are you sending the right message to the young people of the city of Harrisburg?"

If the proposal passes Harrisburg would join Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as the only cities in the state to decriminalize marijuana so far.

Pennsylvania: Religious Leaders Announce Support For Medical Marijuana

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A group of Pennsylvania religious leaders will announce their support for medical marijuana legislation Wednesday at a news conference at 11 a.m. ET on the Lt. Governor’s Balcony in the Pennsylvania State Capitol. They will then visit with lawmakers to convey their support in person.

A diverse group of more than 50 clergy members in Pennsylvania have signed a statement urging state lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive medical marijuana law this year. A list of signers will be posted Wednesday at http://www.ClergyForCompassion.com.

“We cannot remain silent while people in pain and anguish are deprived of a viable, safe, and responsible remedy,” the statement reads. “While we may practice different faiths and come from different communities, we share the same commitment to improving the broader community through the practice of humanity, healing, mercy, and compassion. That is why, as leaders within our respective communities of faith, we are joining together to encourage the Pennsylvania General Assembly to adopt sensible, comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.”

Speakers at the news conference will include Pastor Shawn Berkebile of Abbotstown, Rev. Theodore Cockley of Williamsport, Rabbi George Stern of Philadelphia, and Pastor Bonnie Whittier of Codorus. They will be joined by Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which is rallying clergy nationwide in support of sensible medical marijuana legislation.

Pennsylvania: House Health Committee Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

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Committee votes in favor of bill that would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to use marijuana to treat their medical conditions

The Pennsylvania State House Health Committee on Friday voted unanimously to approve SB 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.

The vote follows the filing of a discharge petition by Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) that would have removed SB 3 from the Health Committee where it had stalled and put it before the full House for a vote.

“While it is a relief that SB 3 is no longer stalled in the Health Committee, it is imperative that it promptly moves to the floor,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fogel, a retired pediatrician who has a debilitating neurologic condition causing bouts of extreme pain. “It’s been over eight months since the Senate first passed a medical cannabis bill. Pennsylvanians have needlessly suffered for far too long. We need relief now.”

"I want to be thrilled by Baker's shocking reversal to move this bill out of his committee today, but after such fierce opposition to this bill I have to wonder if this is just another stall tactic being used to prevent us from getting medicine to our loved ones," said Lolly Bentch, member of Campaign 4 Compassion, whose daughter has intractable epilepsy.

Pennsylvania: Patient Advocates Applaud Petition To Allow Medical Marijuana Vote

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Planned discharge petition would remove SB 3 from House Health Committee where it has stalled and permit a vote in the full House of Representatives

Pennsylvania State Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) filed a discharge petition in the House of Representatives on Friday to remove a medical marijuana bill from the House Health Committee and bring it to the full floor for a vote. SB 3 would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors.

Rep. Matthew Baker (R-Wellsboro), who chairs the Health Committee, has stated that he will not call the bill for a vote there.

“There is no reason this compassionate legislation should not get a full vote,” said Christine Brann of Dauphin County, whose son has an intractable seizure condition called Dravet Syndrome. “SB 3 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and is supported by the vast majority of Pennsylvania doctors as well as residents. We know this works. The time to allow our most vulnerable residents to access medical marijuana is now – not in the fall.”

Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Harrisburg) announced his plans to introduce a new medical marijuana bill in the coming weeks but details have not been finalized.

“Thousands of seriously ill Keystone State residents are depending on our representatives to support this discharge petition and SB 3,” said Mike Whiter, a combat veteran from Philadelphia who suffers from PTSD. “Chairman Marsico's proposal — that he write a bill that would not be considered until fall — is not a reasonable alternative.

Pennsylvania: Doctors, Veterans Call On Lawmakers To Approve Medical Marijuana Bill

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A group of medical doctors will visit Pennsylvania state lawmakers on Tuesday and urge them to support legislation that would allow seriously ill residents to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

They will join a group of local combat veterans and their loved ones at 1:30 p.m. ET for a news conference outside the Lt. Governor’s Office.

Participants in the event will include Dr. Sue Sisley, a nationally recognized authority on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with medical marijuana; Dr. Sanjay Gupta of Philadelphia, a prominent pain management specialist; Dr. Scott Mueller of Mechanicsburg, a family medicine physician; combat veterans Mike Whiter and Barrett Thompson of Philadelphia, both of whom suffer from PTSD; and Donnamarie Freedman of Cumberland County, the mother of a veteran who committed suicide after struggling with PTSD.

The Senate approved SB 3 40-7 on May 12, and the issue is awaiting consideration in the House. SB 3 would allow patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state.

Smoking would not be permitted, but patients would be allowed to consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions would be allowed to consume it through vaporization. To qualify, patients would need recommendations from their doctors.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.

Pennsylvania: Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday voted 40-7 to approve a bill that would make it legal for seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat their conditions with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), would allow qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state.

Smoking would not be permitted under the restrictive language of the bill, but patients could consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions could consume it through vaporization. Patients under the age of 18 would be required to have parental consent in order to take part in the program.

Unfortunately, home cultivation would also not be allowed under the bill, depriving many fixed-income patients of an economical way to provide their own medicine.

Pennsylvanians suffering from cancer, seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara ataxia (SCA), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and chronic pain would be eligible for the program with a recommendation from their doctor.

Pennsylvania: Industrial Hemp Bill Filed In Legislature

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that they say would help farmers become part of the multi-million dollar hemp industry.

"The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers," said state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County), who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County).

Schwank said industrial hemp has been used for thousands of years, and was commonly grown in Pennsylvania until the last century.

About 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp, including textiles, building materials, paper, plastics, foods, medicines, biomass, and environmental products.

"The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits," Folmer said. "The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably.

"Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment," Folmer said. "Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp."

More than a dozen other states have already passed laws allowing either hemp farming or research programs. The hemp industry was worth an estimated $500 million in 2012, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

Photo: Pennsylvania Hempland Security

Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Stalls; Unlikely To Get Vote This Year

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Leaders of the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House have roadblocked a bill which would have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in the Keystone State.

The GOP caucus does want to take a look at the medicinal cannabis bill that passed the Pennsylvania Senate last week, including holding public hearings, according to staffers for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County), reports Charles Thompson at The Patriot-News. But that means there is almost no chance the bill, which passed the Senate on an overwhelming 43-7 vote and is being referred to the House Judiciary Committee, will reach the House floor this year.

That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's been watching, according to Turzai's press secretary, Steve Miskin, who noted the Senate took nearly a year to develop the bill. It would be unrealistic "and irresponsible to just rubber-stamp a bill that creates an entire new bureaucracy" in less than two weeks, he said.

Turzai doesn't like to run bills that don't have support of the majority of the GOP caucus in the House, and it's not yet clear that a majority of Republicans support the bill. Additionally, with Gov. Tom Corbett preferring a much more limited version of "medical marijuana trials," House leaders reportedly don't want to drop a controversial bill in his lap in the last month of his reelection campaign.

Pennsylvania: Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana; the bill now heads to the state House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1182 would allow patients with certain medical conditions to use medical cannabis with a doctor's recommendation, reports WPMT Fox 43.

Cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), severe fibromyalgia, cachexia (wasting syndrome), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome are on the list of approved conditions for medical marijuana.

Removed from the list since the bill's inception -- despite clear clinical evidence that cannabis helps -- were 39 diseases and conditions including muscular dystrophy, Crohn's disease, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, hydrocephalus, diabetes and lupus.

Prime sponsor Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and co-sponsor Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) made the changes to "keep the bill moving" despite misgivings from some of their more timid colleagues. The bill passed on Wednesday on an overwhelming 43-7 vote.

Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Rally Held At State Capitol

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Dozens of medical marijuana supporters on Monday converged on the Pennsylvania's State Capitol as lawmakers returned from their summer recess.

Parents of ailing children and patients with serious medical conditions spoke at the rally about the need for safe access to cannabis, reports the Associated Press. Many in the crowd held up signs with slogans like "Pills Kill" and "Campaign 4 Compassion."

The demonstration was in support of Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis act, whose prime sponsors Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) expect to be sent from the Senate Appropriations Committee to the floor of the state Senate next week.

"We are so close," Sen. Leach said, reports Kendra Nichols at ABC 27. "We are closer than we have ever been. If this runs in the Senate, we get more than 40 votes, and we are promised it will run next week in the Senate."

"We have counted in the House," Leach said. "There are 203 members. We have counted about 160 yes votes." However, Leach added, there is concern that the House "leadership" may block the bill from ever reaching the floor for a vote.

Pennsylvania: GOP Lawmakers Balk On CBD-Only Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Parents in Pennsylvania who want to treat their children's seizures with a marijuana derivative were hopeful after Governor Tom Corbett announced last month he could support a medical study of cannabidiol (CBD). But the program can't begin until the state's House Republican majority supports the move -- and timid GOP party leaders are opposing it, despite the fact that legislatures in states as conservative as Alabama and Mississippi have approved similar legislation.

A majority of GOP members of the House still oppose such a study, according to a spokesman,and don't support authorizing Gov. Corbett's plan to allow children with intractable seizures who are not helped by standard therapies to have supervised access to cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana that does not produce a high, reports Karen Langley at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Republican state representatives said they believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- not the states -- should decide what is medicine, according to spokesman Steve Miskin, putting the lie to GOP claims of supporting "states' rights."

"That is where the majority of members of our caucus stand," claimed the apparently cold-hearted Miskin. "They do not believe the state should approve pot -- marijuana -- of any sort. At this moment there are no plans to move any type of legislation to legalize the use of any derivative of marijuana."

Pennsylvania: Gov. Corbett Backs Marijuana-Derived CBD Oil For Children With Seizures

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Up for reelection this fall, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has reversed his position on the use of marijuana-derived cannabidiol oil (CBD oil), when used to quell seizure disorders in children.

Gov. Corbett said on Thursday he would support a "medically responsible proposal" for a treatment program using CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis that many report is effective in controlling seizures, report Amy Worden and Marie McCullough of The Inquirer of Philadelphia.

The governor claimed he had "considered the issue extensively" in recent months. Corbett also met on Thursday with parents of children with severe seizure disorders. "I have heard the concerns and heartbreaking stories of these families, and I want to help," he said.

It was not clear how many children would be helped. The decision was an abrupt reversal months before Corbett will be running for a second term as governor.

Corbett, a career prosecutor, had long rejected all forms of medical marijuana. A spokeswoman on Thursday said the Governor remains opposed to the actual use of marijuana to treat medical conditions. In a lame attempt to explain his opposition to the non-toxic herb, Corbett said he "had a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians," which translated probably means "Big Pharma makes better campaign contributions than medical marijuana does."

Pennsylvania: Marijuana Supporters Rally At Capitol

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Several hundred people rallied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday, urging state lawmakers to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the production of industrial hemp, and the decriminalization of recreational cannabis.

The Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally featured speakers who urged the use of marijuana as medicine, in support of Senate Bill 1182, which is pending in a state Senate committee and would allow its use with a doctor's authorization, reports Jon Delano at KDKA.

Among the advocates was Heather Shuker of Valencia, whose 11-year-old daughter Hannah has a severe form of epilepsy with multiple seizures daily. "To see her suffer every day is pretty hard to deal with," Shuker said.

Military veteran Joe Mirt, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, said MS is "very painful and hard to manage. And I have found through cannabis I have relief." He said prescribed pharmaceutical anti-depressants only make him feel worse.

"They tell me I can raise a rifle for my state, but I can't raise a joint for my health," Mirt said, reports David Wenner at PennLive. Mirt said he's a veteran of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and the war in Iraq. "You send us to fight your wars and do your bidding, but when we come home where's the support?"

Pennsylvania: Families Testify In Support Of Medical Marijuana Bill At Senate Hearing

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Pennsylvania families on Tuesday came to Harrisburg to testify in favor of Senate Bill 1182, which would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in the Keystone State. Lawmakers heard two and a half hours of testimony on the bill, which is opposed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and supported by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.

SB 1182 would establish state-licensed, nonprofit "compassionate care centers" that would work with nonprofit "commercial medical cannabis farms" to grow and dispense medical marijuana, including "Charlotte's Web," a strain of cannabis with high levels of CBD (which isn't psychoactive but has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties) and low levels of THC (also medicinal, but with psychoactive effects), report Steve Esack and Tim Darragh at the Lehigh Valley Morning Call.

A system of regulation and security would be developed by the Pennsylvania State Police (imagine putting them in charge of medical marijuana, this should be good) and the state departments of Agriculture, Health, and Drug & Alcohol Programs.

Julie and Paul Michaels of Connellsville, Fayette County, and dozens of other parents with similar stories, want the Pennsylvania Legislature to approve cannabis for medicinal use, as 20 other states and the District of Columbia have already done.

Pennsylvania: Republican Helps Medical Marijuana Bill Advance In Legislature

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Senator Mike Folmer -- who was named as one of just 10 "defenders of liberty" in the Pennsylvania General Assembly by the American Conservative Union last year -- is publicly supporting an otherwise Democratic-led effort to legalize medical marijuana for the treatment of serious conditions.

Sen. Folmer has appeared on the Pennsylvania Cable Network to discuss his legislation which would legalize medicinal cannabis in the Keystone State, reports Karen Langley at the Post-Gazette. He keeps a collage of pictures in his car -- photos of children whose parents believe medical marijuana could have helped -- for impromptu interviews.

He has even given other state senators a packet which highlights findings from the LaGuardia Report in the 1940s, to the 1972 Shafer Commission, led by former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer, to more recent medical studies, all supporting his case that medical marijuana could help alleviate suffering without harming society.

Folmer had always wondered why doctors could prescribe opiate narcotics but not cannabis, but he became a vocal advocate after meeting with parents of children with epilepsy.

Dana Ulrich, who lives in Berks County, told the story of her six-year-old daughter, Lorelei, who has hundreds of seizures a day. The Ulrichs have tried more than a dozen pharmaceuticals, as well as a specialized diet, with no success.

Pennsylvania: Hearing Scheduled For Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Pennsylvania will get a legislative hearing later this month, the chairman of a state Senate committee announced on Thursday.

Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney scheduled a January 28 public hearing in the state Capitol on Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, which was introduced this week. Seven members of the 50-person Senate are cosponsors.

Governor Tom Corbett remains opposed to the bill, according to a spokesman, even if it is scaled back to only allow "non-intoxicating" forms of cannabis. "The FDA is the arbiter of the safety and efficacy of all drugs, all substances that are ingested," Corbett's press secretary Jay Pagni said. "If the FDA were to run a clinical trial, the Governor would be interested in the findings."

The 34-page bill would allow patients with a doctor's authorization to acquire marijuana legally. It would create a Medical Cannabis Board; an enforcement arm would be run by the state police.

"There are sick children who have medicine that will make them better, but under current Pennsylvania law they are not allowed to take it," said sponsor Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery). "They are allowed to take much more toxic, less effective medicine."

Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Has Bipartisan Support

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two Pennsylvania state senators on Monday said they plan to introduce a bill to legalize high-CBD marijuana for medicinal use in an effort to help children who suffer seizures, and potentially other patients as well.

Senators Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) said their bill would help ensure people can get medical benefits from cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in cannabis which has medicinal uses but doesn't get you high, reports Marc Levy of The Associated Press.

It was the first time any medical marijuana bill has been introduced with bipartisan support in the Pennsylvania Senate, according to Leach. The wording of the bill, which would limit doctors to authorizing medicine derived from marijuana that has more CBD than THC, indicates a new trend on medical marijuana legislation: excluding high-THC varieties, which, of course, reduces its medical effectiveness, since THC provides just as many therapeutic benefits as does CBD.

The political game they are playing, of course, revolves around the "but this doesn't get you high" argument, and plays into Drug War fears of the marijuana high which have been inculcated in the sometimes gullible American public for years now (we're just starting to break out of that cage of ignorance, as a society).

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