PA’s medical marijuana bill

    Advocates of medical marijuana are hoping 2009 will be the year of legalization in Pennsylvania.

    In Harrisburg, lawmakers are locked in a record-long budget tangle. Advocates for medical marijuana are hoping that once a budget is approved, their issue will get some attention.

    Listen: [audio:090908kgmedical.mp3]

    Chris Goldstein is hoping Pennsylvania’s proposed medical marijuana legislation can ride the momentum of 2009. Earlier this year New Jersey’s bill passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote from the full assembly. The US Attorney General said there would be no more raids of medical marijuana distributors. And Pennsylvania’s bill has received support from some medical leaders and advocacy groups. Goldstein is the spokesman for Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana.

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    Goldstein: The issue’s never been considered here before. It’s one of the few states in the country where there’s never been legislation before. So it’s a pretty exciting time.

    The AIDS Law Project is also supporting the bill. Ronda Goldfein, is the executive director.

    Goldfein: There have been many studies that has shown a benefit for people with all kinds of chronic illnesses including HIV. So it’s a natural fit that we would be behind getting access to treatment for our clients.

    Goldstein’s group is collecting patient testimonials to use during committee hearings — if the bill gets consideration. There is opposition from groups like Drug Free Pennsylvania, which say the bill encourages drug abuse and crime. Jeanne Troy is the spokeswoman for Drug Free Pennsylvania.

    Troy: We do not aprove this. There is prescription marijuana available through doctors for patients who have chemo or other pain and nausea related conditions and that’s called marinol.

    The bill has little chance of review until lawmakers break their months-long struggle over the state budget. In New Jersey, state senators passed a comparable medical marijuana bill. It now awaits a full assembly vote. Delaware’s bill failed to pass.

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