All posts tagged: Legalization

Motion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented

marijuana law reformToday, I presented a Motion in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to have PA’s Schedule I classification of cannabis deemed unconstitutional in light of PA’s medical cannabis law.

This is a clear conflict between the Constitution and State — as well as Federal– law.

The medical efficacy of marijuana has been established in Pennsylvania with the passage of our Medicinal Marijuana legislation, hence the Schedule 1 classification is in direct conflict. We are contending that this is a violation of citizens constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

A major element of the Schedule 1 classification is that in order to be so classified, a drug has no medicinal value at all.

Pennsylvania’s new Medicinal Marijuana legislation flies in the face of Schedule 1, as it lists seventeen qualifying medical conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment option.

I will be briefing the issue to the Court. If anyone is interested in submitting an Amicus — attorneys, advocacy groups, etc.– please feel free to message me at pknlaw@mac.com.

I would also like to express gratitude to Allegheny County Judge Borkowski for taking this issue seriously and allowing this Motion to be read into the record.

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Patrick NightingaleMotion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented
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Medicinal Marijuana: A Status Update

marijuana law reformThe initial excitement expressed over the passage of Pennsylvania’s medicinal marijuana legislation has led to some fallacies regarding how the law works.

It has also opened the doors to various scams, intended to capitalize on that initial excitement.

Let me be absolutely clear on this first point: Marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Until Act 16 is fully implemented merely having a qualifying medical condition under the new law won’t prevent anyone from being arrested and prosecuted for possessing marijuana.

Which brings up my next point. Smoking marijuana is not covered under the new medicinal law, which applies only to medically approved delivery methods such as oils, topical, salves and pill form.  The Department of Health MAY add dry herb as a permissible “medical marijuana product” in 2018, but smoking will remain prohibited as a delivery method.

It is medicine, and is being treated under the law with the same medical and pharmaceutical oversight as any medicine introduced to the marketplace.

Doctors are being trained and certified to recommend medicinal marijuana under very strict guidelines, none of which relate to recreational use.

Only a physician who has been trained and is certified to practice medicine in Pennsylvania will be allowed to make a recommendation.  Prior to considering a medical marijuana recommendation, however, the physician must complete a 4 hour training course and must register with the Department of Health.  A physician recommending medical cannabis may not have a financial interest in a licensed medical cannabis facility such as a grow or a dispensary.

Growing marijuana is still illegal. Claiming a grow operation is for medicinal use is not a defense. Medicinal growers will have to be licensed and regulated by the commonwealth. The process of obtaining a growers license is very strict and very costly.  The application process alone may cost the license winner millions before a single seed is planted.

Finally, a physician MUST have a bona fide physician patient relationship with the patient.

In order to get a recommendation, patients must have a physician patient relationship with their recommending treatment provider.  Because the Department of Health has not yet certified the training requirements for physicians no PA physician can yet make a medical cannabis recommendation to their adult patient.   Any “physician” who offers to do so at present– especially for a fee– is breaking the law.

For more information on medicinal marijuana, we suggest contacting a legitimate organization such as the Pennsylvania Medicinal Cannabis Society with questions regarding prescribing and producing medicinal marijuana.
Visit http://www.pamcs.org for more information.
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Patrick NightingaleMedicinal Marijuana: A Status Update
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Pennsylvania Medicinal Marijuana Raises Many Questions for Lawmakers

marijuana law reformThe first thing one absolutely must keep in mind in this discussion is this: We’re talking about medicine.

The legal, scientific, ethical, and of course, clinical factors for official approval of any medication is often a tedious, time consuming process, with input from various state and private organizations being gathered and recorded in order to set up the ground rules for producing, prescribing and marketing said medication.

In the case of cannabis, this process is somewhat more complicated in that this is not a new drug created in a lab, with little or no preexisting legal status to contend with.

Oxycontin, for example, is synthetic and not an actual opiate, so it doesn’t start out as a Schedule 1 narcotic. It goes through the normal FDA and medical community approval process.

Marijuana however, does have the additional burden of it’s preexisting legal status to contend with.  Not to mention the social status from it’s very prevalent role in the counter culture movement, which has to regularly be defended by proponents of full legalization, despite the mountain of evidence showing it is the most benign and non-violent of all recreational drugs.

So now the official process for MM will begin, and it’s going to take time before we see a state approved distribution system in Pennsylvania. There will be committees to oversee the process, which will include state officials, police organizations and the medical community.

There is a very limited list of medical conditions currently treatable with MM, and we’ll include a couple of links for additional information on the specifics of the law as it now stands.

It should be noted there is already a serious effort underway to get State Prosecutors to waive charges against those who are caught with marijuana but have a medical condition which would qualify them for MM under the new law. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

In the meantime, there is still a statewide effort to get marijuana fully legalized for recreational use, that is far from over. We’ve seen progress in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and we’re starting to see similar decriminalization efforts in more rural communities.

The economic benefits of legalization for the state alone should be enough to convince lawmakers this is not just a savings for law enforcement and an overcrowded legal system, but an incredible opportunity for Pennsylvania to raise serious revenue. And not just taxes directly collected from sales, but tourism dollars.

I’d love to have a week long festival at Point State Park called, Potsburgh Fest! Fireworks, music, weed… food sales for vendors would be insane! And no fights at all. Just a sh*tload of really chill people spending money.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but we just won a major victory. It could happen…

For more information on medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society

Pittsburgh NORML

 

 

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Patrick NightingalePennsylvania Medicinal Marijuana Raises Many Questions for Lawmakers
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The Civility of Marijuana: Gov. Wolf Signs Medicinal Marijuana Bill

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

It has been a long road to this watershed moment for the medical marijuana movement in Pennsylvania. It took far longer than it had to be, but that is often the way of the world. Often that which truly matters take the longest to achieve. It sounds a tad corny in today’s instantly available digital interface world we live in, but it’s timelessly true, like a black and white grainy film of a Vince Lombardi speech. The hard work, the dedication, the commitment… it’s the longer, harder road that leads to the individual victories that lead to the ultimate goal, the ultimate victory.

There are those voices who would downplay this momentous occasion, lamenting the inequities that inevitably accompany compromise in the world of political maneuvering. Some of our fellow activists in states like NJ and NY have seen good intentions founder on the shores of political obstruction. Their criticisms have reminded us that this bill can still fail to serve the patients here in PA. For today, however, we will savor a hard won victory.

We fully expect that as acceptance of medicinal marijuana grows in the medical community patient access will increase and qualifying conditions will continue to be added to the existing 17 conditions. It will happen.

Some justifiably criticize the high licensing and operation costs built in to the legislation. Obviously “home grow” is the most patient friendly model, but our Legislature decided that if it was going to approve medicinal cannabis it intended to regulate it as MEDICINE. Though highly regulated, PA patients will know that the cannabis products they are relying upon to treat their intractable epilepsy, their chronic pain, their multiple sclerosis, have been tested by third party testing facilities and are free from pesticides and mold.

Which brings me to the civility of all this.

Marijuana is the most sociable and civil of recreational drugs. It is freely shared. That doesn’t happen much with hard drugs. That alone should take it off Schedule 1. People don’t rob gas stations for more weed.

It’s a friendly and, especially in light of truly deadly drugs like Meth and Heroin, a ridiculously harmless drug. I’m talking Barney Fife, Arnold Horshack, Scooby Doo and Shaggy harmless. The medicinal benefits completely outweigh the few potential side effects. Frankly, in comparison to what is regularly advertised on TV by Big Pharma, the potential side effects of medicinal marijuana read like a comic book versus the Bible. Ironically, perfectly legal erection meds leaps to mind. The religious right is really weird.

Fortunately for Pennsylvanians in need of medicine, our Governor is a man of conscience, and he’s kept his word. He is signing the bill as promised.

I cannot think of higher praise one could offer any political figure.

Even more though, we need to recognize the grass roots efforts (pun intended) of ordinary people who, through organizations like Pittsburgh NORML, etc., have worked so hard to bring about this legislation. Let us not bemoan the inequities that will lead to further work towards full legalization, but celebrate the victory our hard work has wrought.

Let us all be grateful Governor Wolf is a decent, compassionate and caring human being. A man who is willing to trust the judgment of countless medical professionals and over 80% of Pennsylvanians in saying, “Give these people this medicine”.

So congratulations, Pennsylvania!

Enjoy this important victory.

It’s still illegal for recreational use, but it’s decriminalized in Philly and Pittsburgh and we’re seeing less urban communities moving that way. Now we have a victory on the medicinal front, and it’s important we stay focused on ensuring patient friendly regulations are put into place over the next 24 months. We need to continue working to open the medicinal marijuana marketplace to all Pennsylvanians who need this valuable medicine.

We’re winning.

My sincere thanks to all who have worked so hard to bring this about.

 

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Civility of Marijuana: Gov. Wolf Signs Medicinal Marijuana Bill
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Gateway Drug: Myth or Fact?

MarijuanaIt’s a question that keeps coming up in the legalization debate: Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Myth? Fact? Or just maybe, a little of both.

A better question, and the one that seems to get lost in most of the studies regarding marijuana use is; Why do people use drugs at all?

There is a tendency in anti-marijuana circles to answer this age old question using modern constructs, thus ignoring a simple biological truth. Drugs make a person feel good. Drugs cause the brain to release larger amounts of dopamine, the chemical that makes us feel good.

If dopamine release is the benchmark, then we can conclude almost anything we ingest for pleasure is a “Gateway Drug”.

Chocolate, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and yes, harder drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin all cause the brain to create increased amounts of dopamine.

Consider this, from the governments own website, www.drugabuse.gov:

These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” However, the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs50 and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.

So, can we conclude that using marijuana, tobacco or alcohol will ultimately lead to heroin addiction? Hardly. If marijuana was truly a “Gateway Drug”, then why is it, by the government’s own admission, “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use harder drugs.”

If marijuana is truly a Gateway Drug, then why are there so many drug dealers who smoke pot and are selling heroin and cocaine, but are not using heroin or cocaine themselves? It’s not like they can’t get any. Are we suggesting that greed overrides addiction? Or could it be, the reasons for drug use are far more complex than the simplicity of the “Gateway Drug” explanation?

Again, from drugabuse.gov:

It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with other substance users increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.

In other words, social status, economic status and good old fashioned peer pressure can just as easily be behind drug use.

It’s a truth about youth that boundaries must be tested, social norms questioned, and the age old human need of being bad to feel good comes into play. Young people experiment. It’s just a fact of life.

Sometimes science goes too far and the idea that people make choices becomes subjugated to the notion that because of biology, we cannot control ourselves, and those choices are made for us. Nonsense.

Every study I’ve read through has had to admit that, the “Gateway Drug” explanation is in itself far too simple to fully explain how and why people end up using hard drugs like heroin.

The Rand Corporation is a highly respected think tank that has performed research on everything from drug abuse to nuclear war.

They compiled their own research as well as that of other institutions, finding that although on the surface, it could appear so, there is actually no definitive study that justifies claiming marijuana is a “Gateway Drug”:

This evidence would appear to make a strong case for a gateway effect. However, another explanation has been suggested: Those who use drugs may have an underlying propensity to do so that is not specific to any one drug. There is some support for such a “common-factor” model in studies of genetic, familial, and environmental factors influencing drug use. The presence of a common propensity could explain why people who use one drug are so much more likely to use another than are people who do not use the first drug. It has also been suggested that marijuana use precedes hard-drug use simply because opportunities to use marijuana come earlier in life than opportunities to use hard drugs. The DPRC analysis offers the first quantitative evidence that these observations can, without resort to a gateway effect, explain the strong observed associations between marijuana and hard-drug initiation.

Simply stated, there are many people who have a propensity for drug use, and where they start is not a simple, “one drug leads to another” explanation for drug abuse.

One factor that continually seems to be missed in all this is the legal status of marijuana. It’s classification as a Schedule 1 Narcotic makes selling marijuana profitable, and someone willing to sell drugs is not going to be too particular about which drugs they sell to make money.

By keeping marijuana illegal, and lumping it together with truly harmful drugs like heroin, we drive users to interact with illicit drug dealers, who are more often than not interested in making money. Period. “Hey, if you like weed, you’ll love this.”

That isn’t going to happen at a legal dispensary.

And don’t get me started on the dangers of prescription drugs like Oxycontin, which is basically synthetic heroin. Far too many people get hooked on hard drugs when their prescription runs out. When a physician refuses to refill a prescription for Oxycontin, $7 – $10 stamp bags of heroin are far more affordable than $30 – $50 Oxys. 

Changing the legal status of marijuana in states like Colorado has proven to actually reduce the use of hard drugs like heroin, because people are no longer forced to interact with criminals who may not have their best interests at heart in order to obtain marijuana.

So, enough with the “Gateway Drug” argument. There is absolutely no empirical evidence proving marijuana use leads to hard drug use, any more than eating chocolate, smoking cigarettes or drinking beer does. In fact, according to the government, the vast majority of marijuana users do not use hard drugs at all.

That hardly sounds like a “Gateway Drug” to me.

Related links:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug

http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB6010.html

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleGateway Drug: Myth or Fact?
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Martavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestWhen it was announced last week that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was being suspended for a whole season following a failed drug test, the assumption was he had marijuana in his system. In truth, he missed not one, but two scheduled drug tests, which defaults to a failed test.

This is not the first time Bryant has run afoul of the NFL’s “Zero Tolerance” policy for drug abuse. He was previously suspended for four games under similar circumstances. Remember kids; a missed appointment for a drug test = a failed test. It works that way for anyone on probation, parole, etc. By missing not one, but two tests, Bryant opened the door to much speculation about why he was suspended, yet the truth is, we don’t actually know if he was using any drugs at all.  He was never tested.

Steelers President Art Rooney II, in what appears to be an appeal to compassion, has called for getting Bryant, “…the help he needs…” for the drugs we don’t actually know he was taking. Okay…

But what if that help includes medicinal marijuana?

Bryant, who, admittedly, is still a very young man, is employed in a professional sport that regularly includes violent physical collisions, resulting in long term physical debilitation, multiple concussions and the attendant problems, both physical and emotional, that accompany the normal physical stress and wear that is a natural result of a career in the NFL.

The media has been rife with stories of NFL players, many of them Hall of Famers, who are now dealing with the severity of the physical trauma they experienced while ‘playing a game’. But the NFL is no game to them. It is an intensely physical contest between players of gladiatorial strength and it punishes players long after they hang up their cleats.

As public acceptance of the validity of medicinal marijuana continues to grow, and the political realities of legalization begin to creep into the mainstream conscious, many businesses are having to face some decisions regarding where their contractual obligations for their employees are beginning to clash with the law.

If an NFL player in Colorado wants to use legal marijuana, on their own time, for personal recreational purposes, does the League still have the right to say they can’t?

After all, many professions require clean drug tests to get and keep a job– Airline Pilots, Truck Drivers, Police Officers, Firemen, jobs within the security sector. What makes an NFL player any different?

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding legal marijuana. There is currently no reliable test to determine impairment in the way a blood test can determine blood alcohol levels, yet that hasn’t stopped municipalities from charging motorists with DUI for marijuana, based mostly on possession and the observations of the arresting officer.

Not exactly a scientific approach.

But what happens to an NFL player if his doctor prescribes marijuana as a treatment option? Does the NFL have the right to deny their employees legal medicine?

Players are routinely prescribed medications that could easily be abused or result in an arrest. There are plenty of people in court who were charged with DUI for their prescriptions. Something like Oxycontin is a very powerful drug that can and does impair the senses of those taking it. People taking it probably shouldn’t be driving, but that’s a separate issue.

If a player’s doctor prescribed Oxycontin, then the NFL has to accept that one or more of their players is in a position to abuse their medication, but they do not have the right to tell them they can’t take it. They can only act if that player abuses that medication, resulting in an arrest or an accident. The NFL is not a medical board. They do not have the right to independently determine what constitutes medicine and what doesn’t. They cannot and should not be allowed to override the determinations of a licensed physician, regardless of their personal or professional stance on the issue.

Some states with legal medicinal marijuana have built in protections for patients who are prescribed marijuana, to ensure they are treated fairly by both law enforcement and in their workplaces.  Pennsylvania’s law would provide employees protection from employer discrimination for using medicinal cannabis. A person who has a prescription for marijuana cannot be fired for using marijuana in a state where it’s legal, unless they are actively abusing it on the job. It’s generally a bad idea to show up for work stoned or drunk, so I think there’s some common sense in all this to protect the employee, the employer and the general public welfare. It makes sense that a Train Engineer should be sober when operating the train. We get that.

There’s no doubt there is still some legal grey areas involving medicinal marijuana where employment is concerned, especially in companies that operate in all 50 states. An NFL player from Denver who is traded to a team located in a state where marijuana is still 100% illegal, for example. Where do their rights to fair treatment come in to play? That player has a legal prescription, yet is still subject to arrest for using that medication outside the state in which he resided when prescribed the medication.

The question then becomes, does the NFL, or any employer, have the right to tell their employees which medications their physician can or cannot prescribe them, regardless of the State in which the prescription is written?

Maybe Bryant just wants to burn one with his friends, but the odds, and the statistics, suggest it’s equally possibly this young man is already experiencing the effects of the physical trauma associated with a career in the NFL.

The NFL needs to take a fresh look at an outdated policy that denies players any medically valid treatment options, or medicine, to repair or at least alleviate the chronic debilitating physical conditions brought on as a direct result of their employment conditions.

Medicinal marijuana is becoming legal in Pennsylvania soon. Maybe it’s time for Mr. Rooney to take the lead on this in the League, if he truly cares about the players and wants them to get the help they need, as he says.

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Patrick NightingaleMartavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?
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Medical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.

marijuana law reformThere’s no way I can deny that this topic has become a classic example of a broken record. It’s like friggin’ Groundhog Day.

The only difference is, there has in fact  been steady progress towards a sane policy for legalization in Pennsylvania. Yes, it moves at what feel like glacial speeds, but it has moved closer to our goal of removing this harmless and helpful plant from the list of hard drugs, and eliminating criminal penalties that are often draconian in light of the mounting evidence in favor of legalization.

After all, Pennsylvania should be first in line when it comes to Liberty. We have Independence Hall! We have the Liberty Bell! We have Le’Veon Bell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

This is a state that has been described as Philly on the right side, Pittsburgh on the left side and Alabama in between. That was said before the internet and cell phones and tablets and… you get the picture. Time is catching up. Even in rural areas, you will find that a majority of people support some form of legalization and or decriminalization.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 60% of people polled favored full legalization and regulation similar to states like Colorado, which has proven to be effective in reducing crime statistics and been financially rewarding for the state through taxation. Not to mention the upsurge in profits for Girl Scout cookie sales and pizza delivery drivers.

Even more impressive is the over 80% in favor of, at the very least, making medicinal marijuana available to Pennsylvanians who will benefit from it. Even the staunchest republican will have second thoughts after watching their grandchild’s seizures abate with CBD treatments. You’d have to be pretty heartless to tell a parent whose child has cancer that they shouldn’t be able to use every treatment available to save their child, because “Jesus”. I’m not a religious scholar or anything, but based on everything Jesus was quoted as saying, I think someone who would say that has really missed the point when it comes to Jesus.

The log jam is caused by that single log. Mr. Log lodges itself in such a way that it causes smaller debris to pile up and cause a flood. In the aftermath, we rarely think about that single log, but focus on the larger devastation caused by the flood.

Right now, a single politician, in a rural county that doesn’t begin to represent a fair and balanced cross section of the citizens of Pennsylvania, has intentionally been that log, jamming up the process for no other reason than his personal opinion. That’s it. Mr. Log has chosen to ignore the vast majority of scientific evidence, accredited medical studies, even the government’s own admissions of current law being outdated and not worth policing and enforcing, in favor of his personal view. Mr. Log represents a district that is rural in the extreme, yet he seems to be saying his constituents think it will become South Central L.A. if doctors are allowed to prescribe medicine that also gets you high.

Try telling that to the guy who voted for him, right after that guy comes out of a major surgery– No Morphine For You! You voted for Mr. Log! You’ll live, but you won’t like it. Have a Tylenol…

People say that he’s in the pocket of Big Pharma, blah blah blah. DUH! ALL politicians take money from questionable sources. Even Bernie Sanders, despite his admirable stance on refusing PAC money, etc., even he cannot claim that 100% of his donors are pure of heart and have no ulterior motives beyond feeling the Bern. Money is part and parcel of politics. Even when it’s not, it still is.

It’s ridiculous to think that medicinal marijuana will somehow devastate the pharmaceutical industry, and the money will stop flowing. Marijuana is not a miracle cure-all. No sane person would begin to make such an argument. It is a natural, non-toxic, and in many instances extremely effective treatment option. With it’s acceptance as a viable medicine, there is every reason to believe that it will have additional benefits which, because of it’s illegal status, have not yet come to light.

But, you know all this. You’ve read all this and more, so many times, you could write it yourself with a random word generator program and a few dabs. I get it.

Kind of makes you wonder if they even have cell phones in rural Pennsylvania. Maybe they only have a black and white Zenith, with two channel knobs and maybe five channels to choose from.

2019 was the year the film, Blade Runner took place, so as a nation, we’re already behind on flying cars, but apparently, in one rural Pennsylvania county, it’s still black and white TV when it comes to it’s political landscape. At least that seems to be Mr. Log’s perspective.

But the flood has risen, in ways Mr. Log cannot control. Now is the time to contact your state representatives and demand they vote in favor of medicinal marijuana.

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have passed decriminalization measures. Both are still standing. Both represent a huge percentage of Pennsylvanians, and those numbers extend into the surrounding districts as well. We cannot let one rural district representative like Mr. log dictate to the entire state, simply because he chairs a committee, and  thinks he can act like the Dictator of some third world backwater without indoor plumbing. Or a rural county in Pennsylvania, even.

The fight for legalization is not over in Pennsylvania, but we are on the verge of a significant victory with passage of a medicinal marijuana bill. Contact your state representatives and voice your support. Don’t let this moment pass us by.

Oh, by the way, I don’t name the politician because I call him, Mr. Log, and that’s all the name recognition he’ll get from me.

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.
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Making Sense of Politics

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

When one hears the word, “Politics”, it is natural to think of the political process itself, but politics is a much wider arena than merely a way to get elected to office.

In this election year, we’re being inundated with politics. The politics of the left, of the right, of the corporations, of the special interests… of the people. It’s no accident I list ‘the people’ last.

When I’m standing in the Capitol at Harrisburg, having a sense of deja vous all over again, to quote Yogi Berra, it’s pretty easy to see why the people are frustrated with the entire political process.

This week I did just that, and I must admit, I felt pretty damned frustrated.

Once again, I found myself speaking at the state capitol, on behalf of the people who need medicine.

Medicine.

Not a buzz, not a way to enhance their listening pleasure when they put on, “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Medicine.

How heartless the system must seem to those who feel they no longer have a voice. How cold and unforgiving and uncaring that system appears to people, including those of us who are an integral part of that system. Now, imagine the depth of that feeling when that system would deny medicine to people who need it, and being one of those people, or the relative of those who need that medicine.

Imagine being severely injured, in need of pain killers, and being denied that medicine because of politics, simply because that medicine flies in the face of a political narrative, that has very little to do with helping people.

Heroin has become a scourge once again. Young people are using it at an alarming rate. It’s a very real problem, featuring a drug that truly destroys lives. Yet no politicians are saying Morphine, or any of it’s derivatives, should be discontinued because it also gets you really high.

Heroin comes from morphine, and by the logic of politicians, morphine should be illegal –AS MEDICINE.

It’s the exact same argument politicians are using to deny people medicinal marijuana. People get high on marijuana, so it can’t be medicine.

You can bet those arguments would evaporate for those same politicians if they or their loved ones were denied pain killers to ease their suffering.

Morphine is pretty potent stuff before it becomes heroin. It can be smoked or eaten or distilled into a drinkable form. Sound familiar? Yet, that’s where the similarities with marijuana end.

Morphine, and all it’s derivatives, are highly addictive, and is often at the heart of addiction problems that become worse once someone can no longer get it- or it’s derivatives- as a prescription. Those people often turn to drugs like heroin once they are cut off from their prescription, but at that point, it’s no longer medicine. It’s feeding an addiction.

By contrast, even in it’s purest form, THC is non-addictive and non-toxic. It does not result in catastrophic consequences for those who use it as a recreational drug, let alone as a means of easing suffering. Unless of course, they get arrested for possessing or selling it. That can be quite catastrophic.

Unlike morphine, marijuana is not just a pain killer– it can also be a cure. Scientific studies overwhelmingly agree that medicinal marijuana has potential to be an effective cure for many conditions. It is often the legal status that prevents even more research from being done.

And still, here we are, standing in the state capitol, once again pleading with a few politicians to stop denying people medicine. Not doctors. Not scientists. Politicians.

As I read through my Facebook feed, and see the level of rancor in any attempt to discuss political solutions to very real problems, I have to SMH and do a double face palm. Polls show an overwhelming 84% of Americans support medicinal marijuana. Why would any politician attempt to fight numbers like that? Eighty four percent.

This is only politics for those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Why they would want to ignore so clear a mandate from the people they represent to maintain that status? That is the real question we should be asking.

Who do these politicians really represent?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMaking Sense of Politics
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Lessons from Colorado. What I saw and didn’t see in the “Wild West of Weed.”

MarijuanaThe word of the day, of the year, in Colorado, is COMPLIANCE.

One might think the state of Pennsylvania would appreciate this, as the state operates “PA Wine & Spirits”, or “State Stores” as they are commonly called.

In Colorado, the state does not actually sell marijuana, but they do regulate the stores that sell, and it’s pretty impressive how they have really taken into consideration all aspects of retail marijuana.
Retail outlets are clean, discreet dispensaries with licensed employees.

This no Cheech and Chong version of legal weed. (Not that I have anything against Cheech and Chong. They seem harmless enough to me). This is serious business for both the state and retailers. These licenses are far too hard to get to lose it over non-compliance.

Underage sales are virtually impossible to make as each store has at least two points of checking ID.

In terms of service, PA Wine & Spirits could learn a thing or two from the legal cannabis business model. Dispensaries are staffed by individual ‘bud tenders’ to assist the customer in finding the strains that best suit their individual needs.

Two other key elements are clear, easy to read labeling and safe packaging. The legal marijuana business is as straight forward as any regulated business I can think of, with plenty of safeguards in place.

One of the big concerns about legal marijuana has been eliminating any chance of children getting their hands on cannabis. This is why dispensaries are required to provide child proof bags to ensure children don’t accidentally become exposed.

Marijuana MUST be in a child proof package before leaving the store. The paper and plastic bags associated with liquor stores don’t come close to this kind of responsible packaging.

There is no window shopping, either.

For example, in Denver, one must cannot just go in and wander around dispensaries. The stores have websites where potential customers can do their window shopping prior to their visit to the store.

Originally, the medicinal licensing required vertical integration – a dispensary had to grow its own. That requirement was recently eliminated, but the successful dispensaries are in control of their own inventory. They want to make certain people are getting the strains that work best for their individual medical conditions– another reason stores have licensed, knowledgeable employees.

Colorado is even more serious about growing marijuana. Grow operations face inspections and often have armed security, and they have real time video monitoring with a feed to the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Yes, Colorado has a division of government much like our own Liquor Control Board, or LCB, to regulate marijuana growing and sales.

This is frustrating for those of us still on the front lines of the fight for legalization.

In Pennsylvania, state officials in opposition act as if they have to invent the wheel when it comes to a common sense, responsible and effective system of retail compliance. Yet, here is an excellent working model where all the legwork has already been done.

Licensing, safety, and taxation are all in place. It’s simply a case of taking the Colorado business model and tailoring it to meet the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Not just the needs of those who wish to indulge, but also those citizens who have legitimate concerns about the issue. It’s a fair approach that can work here.

Pennsylvania is a state where polling suggests a majority of citizens– especially in and around urban areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia– support legalization in some form. By adopting a common sense, well regulated approach like that in Colorado, we can provide the medicine people need and the recreational use people want, while effectively addressing the needs and concerns of all of the citizens of our state.

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Patrick NightingaleLessons from Colorado. What I saw and didn’t see in the “Wild West of Weed.”
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Blame Buddie: Ohio Rejects Legal Weed

Issue-3-mascotThere’s already plenty of crowing from the anti-legalization crowd as Ohio has rejected marijuana legalization. But, is that what actually happened?

The proposals Ohio voters were asked to consider were somewhat confusing. Issue 3- legalization- was countered by Issue 2, which stipulates that it is illegal to insert economic privileges into the state constitution, which Issue 3 essentially did by stipulating a limited number of growing licenses be issued to predetermined recipients and leaving the rest out in the cold, thus essentially creating a growers cartel.

Some voters were obviously opposed to legalization itself, but there were also many who support legalization, yet are opposed to setting up monopolies for big business with little or no mention of taxes, education, etc.

And then there was “Buddie”.

Buddie is the mascot for the legalization movement in Ohio, and can best be summed up in the words of my 14 year old daughter. When shown a picture of Buddie, she said, “Oh my God, that’s awful!”

Thus even my child saw how irresponsible it was to include a mascot that could easily be construed as appealing to children.

The number one argument of opponents to reform has consistently been a fear that kids would take up toking as a result of legalization. In my recent visit to Denver, I found the exact opposite to be true.

Marijuana dispensaries were clean, efficient and safe. They require ID to enter and if you go in, you must buy. No window shopping and no children at all.

The staff was very helpful and professional. Indeed, it was very much like purchasing alcohol at a Pennsylvania State store.

And the numbers bear this out. Colorado has actually seen a drop in marijuana use by those under 18 since legalization.

And yet, here’s Buddie. In the eyes of opponents, it was like Disney World had opened a park dedicated to Cheech and Chong, complete with a smiling character based on a bud for the children to play with.

It might be the single dumbest move ever in the history of the legalization movement.

Coupled with the confusion created by Issue 2 and Issue 3, and the reluctance of many supporters to embrace creating a monopoly, it’s no wonder the measure failed to pass.

It stands as a warning to those of us in the movement to legalize. Even though there are states that have passed legalization, giving impetus to others to continue the fight, it has also created a sense of false hope that it would become easier now that Colorado and others have legalized weed.

Ohio stands as a stark reminder that the fight is going to be a hard one that is going to continue.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have consistently taken a two pronged approach to the fight. The first is that Marijuana is quite simply medicine for many people with chronic medical conditions.

The second is RESPONSIBLE USE by ADULTS, regulated in the same way we regulate the consumption of alcohol.

We have consistently advocated not just for legalization, but for educational programs that would steer kids away from marijuana until they are legally old enough to make the decision for themselves. No one in Pittsburgh NORML would for a moment suggest doing anything that might impede or contradict that policy.

“Responsible Ohio”, the advocacy group, in creating a mascot that flies in the face of that logic in the way Buddie does, could hardly be considered being responsible.

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Patrick NightingaleBlame Buddie: Ohio Rejects Legal Weed
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