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Pennsylvania Medical Society to reassess stance on marijuana

| Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, 11:06 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society will reconsider its opposition to using marijuana for medical purposes, starting by talking to its statewide network of physicians.

The group opposes legislation to legalize marijuana for medical purposes that passed the state Senate this year. But next weekend at its annual House of Delegates meeting, members will consider whether to support marijuana use in certain circumstances.

In-state advocates of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes welcomed the potential change.

Heather Shuker, a Pine resident whose 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, has severe epilepsy and is part of the Campaign for Compassion advocacy group, said the resolution gives doctors who are supportive of cannabis use a platform for their views.

“We think it's irresponsible for (the society) to claim to represent doctors in Pennsylvania, yet not be up to speed on something that is going to affect thousands of patients in the state,” she said. “We are grateful that they seem willing to reconsider their stance.”

A poll from Quinnipiac University released Oct. 8 showed 90 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing marijuana for medical use. About two dozen states have done so. Ohio could legalize medical and recreational use of marijuana through a ballot question next month.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs that use marijuana derivatives that doctors are able to prescribe, said Chuck Moran, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

“Our current position is really in favor of more research,” he said.

The resolution introduced on behalf of the Montgomery County Medical Society would continue opposition to Senate Bill 3. Language is likely to change, Moran said, as members debate the proposal. Right now, it says the group would “support use of medical marijuana for compassionate care and medical conditions in which no FDA approved prescription medication is effective.”

Discussion has begun in an online forum that will be open through Oct. 15. The group will have a committee meeting on the topic, at which any member can speak on the topic. From there, it will go to the full group for amendments or approval.

Legalization efforts in the Capitol, for the moment, are at a standstill or still under wraps. The House of Representatives has yet to consider SB 3, but members of that chamber are working on legislation that could get the 102 votes needed to pass, said Steve Miskin, spokesman for Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, a co-sponsor of SB 3, said he hopes the society can help get his medical cannabis bill passed quickly.

In states where it's legal, marijuana is a treatment option for illnesses including glaucoma, seizures, post-traumatic stress, cancer and chronic pain.

“Each day without medical cannabis protocol in Pennsylvania is another day of needless suffering for patients and their families,” Leach said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mdaniels@tribweb.com or 412-380-8511.

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