New Castle News


May 2, 2014

Our Opinion: Corbett changes stance on medicinal use

NEW CASTLE — We are pleased to hear that Gov. Tom Corbett is adjusting his stance on medical marijuana.

Yesterday, the governor announced he is prepared to support legislation that would allow the legalization of extracts from marijuana to be used for medical purposes in the commonwealth. But only for children suffering from seizures.

There has been a push in Pennsylvania and elsewhere for such treatments in light of claims by advocates that the active ingredient in marijuana may be useful in controlling the seizures some children suffer.

Of course, a nod of approval from Corbett is not the equivalent of legalization. It’s still up to Pennsylvania’s Legislature to craft a measure that can reach the governor and gain his signature. Under the best of conditions, that can be a daunting task.

And when it comes to matters related to marijuana and medicine, the best of conditions don’t exist. That’s because of the muddled legal and medical situation that surrounds marijuana.

The drug remains completely illegal at the federal level, where it’s officially described as having no medical value. This has seriously hampered research into the effectiveness of marijuana for treating various ailments.

As we have said in the past, one of the main reasons we support medical marijuana is to allow for the impartial and repeatable research necessary to accurately assess the value of the drug. Without documentation that examines dosage, drug strength and related factors, families seeking help via marijuana are at the mercy of people who may — or may not — be legitimate.

Sadly, even with legalization in the relatively short term, our concerns will not be fully addressed. It takes time to conduct truly scientific experiments to confirm whether marijuana helps certain patients or if these claims are merely anecdotal.

And without the support of the federal government — which seems to be looking the other way where marijuana legalization is concerned these days — it’s unclear how thorough any medical assessments will be.

With the possibility the feds could, at any point, turn around and start charging people who possess marijuana, will legitimate labs and medical facilities participate in the necessary experiments?

We’re sure these and other questions will arise in any legalization debate in the Legislature. And we will probably see efforts on the part of some lawmakers to pursue broader legalization of the drug, similar to what has happened in Colorado.

We remain highly skeptical of those efforts. Any medical value for marijuana does not justify recreational use. But with Pennsylvania increasingly desperate for tax revenue, don’t be surprised if marijuana suddenly gains more receptive treatment in Harrisburg.

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