All posts tagged: Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana: A Brand New Battle in Pennsylvania

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.

Who is Matthew Baker and more importantly, who does he think he is?

If I had to guess, he’s a power hungry politician who represents a very small percentage of Pennsylvanians. He seems more intent on being a pseudo scientist and medical professional than in being a legislator.

One cannot argue the republican representative is very popular in Tioga County (population a bit over 46,000) where he garners enough support to potentially remain in office for a very long time.

He claims to have all this scientific data and research, yet has failed to produce even one study during the debate on Senate Bill 3, the Medical Cannabis Act.

He utterly ignores the fact that 23 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana already, and all without attendant horror stories of death and mayhem.

Even more amazing, he ignores the fact that the United States government itself actually provides medical marijuana for a small number of patients. That’s right, Uncle Sam is dealing the Devil’s Lettuce in the form of tin cans of perfectly rolled joints.

This is the same government that keeps marijuana listed on the Schedule 1 narcotics list, though we are starting to see a change of attitudes on that among politicians and law enforcement professionals.

And still Mr. Baker, who chairs the House Health Committee, refuses to focus on what is happening in the world around, before his very eyes. He instead chooses to focus on the fear of “what if?”, and perhaps the fear of losing his office.

Or maybe, just maybe, he fears losing a rather large portion of his donors, which for some reason include a large number of pharmaceutical firms. This would not be odd if these companies had offices or manufacturing facilities located in Tioga county, but they don’t. Why would they even donate to a campaign whose outcome has no actual effect on their business?

He certainly has no difficulty ignoring the fact that several of his contributors are facing penalties and fines for selling drugs for uses which are unapproved by the FDA:

“It is amazing when you consider the strong opposition of the expert medical and scientific community that appeared to be ignored (and) the only drugs that should be allowed in the Commonwealth are those that are authorized through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. —  Rep. Matthew Baker

How can one explain his unwillingness to produce these reports of strong opposition and why pharmaceutical companies would be concerned about the election outcomes in a very small county in Pennsylvania?

Oh, wait. He chairs that committee. Let’s give him money.

Actually, I am reminded of the scene from Blazing Saddles, when Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) says, “But, where could we find such a man? And why am I talking to you?” “You” being, WE, the people.

Do you have any idea how tired I and others are of reminding Mr. Baker that 88% of the people in Pennsylvania approve of medical marijuana legalization?  Apparently, a large part of that other 12 percent live in Tioga County, which must be populated by folks who would rather let children die than see their beloved representative lose his corporate donor base.

Why is it even legal for a corporation with no address in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, to donate in what is, by definition, a local election?  I find it hard to believe they do it because they call it home… in their hearts, anyway.

How would you feel if, say, 10 doctors agreed on a potentially life saving medicine for you, or heaven forbid, your child, but a single politician, backed by money from a bunch of companies with no viable alternative to offer (I know, they’re working on it, so just suffer till they work it out), is able to tell your doctors, “No, let your patient die.”

Does any of this make sense to you?

It makes sense to Matthew Baker. He seemingly has no problem (or compassion) saying ‘no’ when a weeping mother stands before him, telling a true story of how this medicine can save her child. He’d rather protect imaginary children than real, living breathing children.

Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe he’d rather have the money.

Scott Gacek at The Daily Chronic has written an excellent piece detailing the campaign contributors Mr. Baker actually represents. He has quoted myself and others in the fight to legalize marijuana about Matt Baker and about new strategies we need to explore.

Frankly, having participated in this ongoing debate for years, including testifying in Harrisburg, I am starting to wonder if Mr. Baker is delusional and in need of some medication from his supporters.

Or at the very least, the man seems to be in need of an enema, and fortunately, he won’t need a prescription for that.

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana: A Brand New Battle in Pennsylvania
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Dear “Frustrated Friend”. Improved medicinal bill may pass after all.

sentencing guidelinesDear FF,

I apologize for my delayed response, but I have been involved in a homicide case, so it’s been difficult to find the time.

Ironically, the delay has actually been helpful as I have some good news for you.

The original senate bill was, as you say, gutted. Many medical conditions were removed, and believe me, we in the legalization movement understand your frustration.

The good news is, many of those conditions that were removed, including Chronic pain, Crohn’s Disease and  diabetes, have been added back in medical Cannabis Act– Senate Bill 3– along with AIDS and HIV.

Delivery methods were also expanded. Vaporization has been included for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures and cancer. Nurse Practitioners will also be able to make recommendations for medical cannabis, under a physician’s supervision.

You’re correct about pharmaceutical companies, but that’s really nothing new. The people who need this medicine cannot wait, and I believe the politicians now realize this.

As for our Governor, don’t be confused. This isn’t something he can do on his own. He must wait for the State House and Senate to act, but he has consistently said he would sign the bill if passed. It looks like he may get his chance very soon.

Tell your friends that although full legalization is still in the future, it has become increasingly likely that Senate Bill 3 will pass this year, and Pennsylvanians will finally have the medicine they so desperately need.

And don’t be mad at the Republicans, as it is Republican State Senator Mike Folmer, Lebanon County, who introduced the bill.

Let’s hope he can convince the rest of his party of the need to put politics aside, and pass this humane legislation.

I wish I could write more, but I really must get back to this case.

Your support is greatly appreciated and be of good cheer. This Wednesday is the Senate vote, where SB3 passed once already, and the House will not be able to table the bill at the end of the current session, as they did last year. They’re most likely going to have to vote, and the results look promising.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleDear “Frustrated Friend”. Improved medicinal bill may pass after all.
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Go Slow Approach Only Cares About Lawsuits, Not Medicine

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.

For the Pennsylvania Medical Society to pretend that there are not literally hundreds of peer reviewed clinical studies on the medical efficacy of cannabis for a wide variety of conditions is shameful and disgusting. Their testimony proffered at the hearing last week in Harrisburg just ignored the fact that 23 other states have legalized medicinal cannabis. The PA Medical Society couldn’t even be bothered to check with, for example, the Colorado Medical Society to see what their professional colleagues in a medicinal state had to say. But, Dr. Karen Rizzo I think summed it up perfectly when she told NBC out of Philadelphia that even if it were legal doctors wouldn’t recommend it because of fear of being sued. Surprisingly she didn’t bother to check with malpractice carriers in Colorado or Washington or even bother to see if a physician in a medicinal state had, in fact, ever been accused of professional negligence. Their opposition is ignorant and based solely on controlling medical malpractice insurance premiums and not in treating patients with a non-toxic treatment alternative. Their opinion should be disregarded in its entirety.

Here is an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times, regarding the “Go Slow” approach that flies in the face of evidence and reason.

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Patrick NightingaleGo Slow Approach Only Cares About Lawsuits, Not Medicine
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Half-Truths and Outright Lies

statecapitolSitting through the SB3 testimony of medical ‘professionals’ from the Pennsylvania Medical Society, while they denied even the existence of the LUDICROUS amount of research studies done regarding medicinal marijuana, was too much to take.

Rather than get myself all worked up again refuting the drivel they had the unmitigated gall to utter, in the state capitol no less, I am sharing the following link, which is also an organization of medical professionals.

Lies, Damned Lies and the Pennsylvania Medical Society

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Patrick NightingaleHalf-Truths and Outright Lies
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A Conversation with a Frustrated Friend

MarijuanaA friend of mine, someone who has been a strong supporter of the legalization efforts of NORML, recently broached the topic with more than a little exasperation.

“How much more evidence do they need!?” he said in a most animated way. “The research is there! Study after study! The FDA approves prescription drugs that don’t have one tenth of the research time given marijuana!”

It’s hard to argue with him. The clinical studies. The medical benefits studies… But he wasn’t done, yet.

“Doctors! F***ing doctors are already prescribing marijuana to patients in how many states!?” Why would doctors risk prescribing it if it didn’t help their patients? I mean, it’s not like dealers give them kickbacks the way big pharma does!”

Again, he makes a good point. Doctors do, in fact receive incentives’ from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their medications. Doctors are also increasingly embracing marijuana as a legitimate form of treatment for a wide variety of conditions.

“How can politicians even begin to think they know better than doctors about medicine?” he continued. “Even the police will admit it’s harmless and often a waste of their time. But they have quotas to meet and it’s an easy citation to write up. The odds of a shootout have to be virtually non-existent when busting someone on a simple possession charge.”

Marijuana is the most non violent of any substance consumed by man to get a buzz. Even caffeine, or the lack thereof, can cause someone to experience road rage in a traffic jam. Marijuana smokers are much more likely to just chill and wait it out.

My friend paused and then said, “You know I love you man. The work you’ve done with NORML… I would be hard pressed to name anyone who has worked harder to bring about reform, but all this damn legalese and procedural stuff is killing momentum. State Bill # one million, something something… It’s confusing for the average person. It’s incredibly frustrating for those of us who are informed, let alone for the patients and parents of children in need of medicine. I really think we need to refocus and streamline the effort. Just point out the common sense, provable reasons legalization makes sense. The waters keep getting muddied by biased asshats like Nancy Grace and Republican lawmakers interested in making deals– holding medical marijuana hostage so they can privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania… It’s maddening!”

Yes, it does get pretty frustrating, and my buddy is right. Being an attorney, I bring all available evidence to light, but maybe we’re overloading the average person with too much terminology and procedural matters. Maybe we should just start focusing on the children in desperate need of medicine, the average people whose lives get disrupted by a simple possession charge.

Fortunately, in Governor Tom Wolf, we have an ally in Harrisburg. We need to strike while the iron is hot. We need to keep the ‘grass roots’ (pun intended) aspect of this campaign alive. We need to contact our state representatives and let them know we support legalization now. We need to let them know we’re watching how they vote, and their vote will likely influence OUR vote in the next election. And most important of all, we need YOUR voice.

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Patrick NightingaleA Conversation with a Frustrated Friend
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Q&A: Medicinal Marijuana. Still Illegal Under Federal Law

sentencing guidelinesThe current budget passed by Congress and signed by President Obama halts funding for the DEA to prosecute Medicinal Marijuana users and sellers in states where it is legal, but what does this mean in the overall landscape of legal reform?

There have been several headlines in major mainstream media outlets touting this as ‘virtually legalizing” medical marijuana, which is far from the truth.

The only thing the spending bill does is, not authorize funds that the DEA would use to investigate medical marijuana users and sellers in states that authorize it. It does not invalidate the Supremacy Clause, nor would it necessarily prohibit the DEA from investigating illegal drug activity under the guise of a legal MMJ business.

So there has been no significant change to the law itself?

None. It simply denies funds that the DEA would earmark, or specifically use, to target anyone otherwise operating in compliance with state MMJ law. It doesn’t change the law at all. All it does is tell the DEA that they will not receive any funding for actions to investigate anyone just because they are in violation with federal law.

Doesn’t this mean Congress is basically admitting it has medicinal value, thereby refuting the Schedule 1 Drug classification status?

It’s evidence of a shift, in terms of congressional support for legalization, but it’s not an explicit admission of medicinal value. This could change in nine months when Congress introduces the next spending bill. Remember the Obama administration has taken a very lax attitude towards marijuana law in general, but there’s no guarantee that trend will continue.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Federal government is not violating the Constitution in prosecuting MMJ cases—even in states where it’s legal.  Isn’t it still possible the DEA could act anyway– i.e.; the Commerce Clause?

Certainly the Commerce Clause in cases of MMJ sales—especially when crossing state lines, or even the Supremacy Clause, as long as federal law is what it is today. One must keep in mind, as far as the Federal government is concerned, everything CO, OR, WA, AL, DC and Guam, as well as the other medicinal states, is 100% illegal under federal law. Totally illegal.

In the Supreme Court ruling, the case involved someone growing a small number of plants for personal medicinal use. Is the reason it’s being sold relevant?

Absolutely – even if they allow the states to proceed with legalization experiments, they will quite likely act if it goes from state to state, in clear violation of not only the controlled substances act, but also federal jurisdiction pursuant to the Commerce Clause. Marijuana leaving the legal state and ending up in the illegal state is still a very big deal.

So although this signals a political shift, the war is far from over?

Far from over.

Marijuana remains federally regulated as a Schedule I prohibited substance. It remains Schedule I in PA as well. The efforts to defund the DEA are intended to protect citizens of medicinal marijuana from federal prosecution where they are otherwise in compliance with state law. Unfortunately we’ve seen numerous examples of the DEA acting aggressively in medicinal states.

Until Congress is ready to act on the matter of changing the classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value, we’re likely to see further prosecutions, regardless of how they are funded.

Our concern at Pittsburgh NORML is this may cause members to relax their efforts here. Something we cannot afford to do if we want to see reform in the coming year. We have a new Governor who favors some form of decriminalization. We need to strike while the iron is hot.

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Patrick NightingaleQ&A: Medicinal Marijuana. Still Illegal Under Federal Law
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We’re Not Reinventing the Wheel

marijuana law reformThe frustration can be overwhelming at times.

A parade of legal and medical experts. Countless studies. Average people stepping forward to tell their own stories of relief from medical conditions– conditions prescription medications didn’t help. Parents standing in front of news crews and our elected representatives, sharing the pain of a sick child being denied medication approved by their doctor. Seemingly endless committees, all weighing in on something with a wealth of information available, like no one knows what marijuana does. Hearing after hearing…

And despite all this, and more evidence coming to light every day, our legislature is seemingly debating this issue in a vacuum.

And now, thanks to the State House “tabling” the original bill, we’re faced with doing it all over again.

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

Pennsylvania is closer than it’s ever been to legalization, at least for medicinal marijuana, but we’re still a long way from making it happen, mostly because our legislature refuses to recognize we are not starting from scratch here.

It’s now legal in 4 states. The largest city in Pennsylvania has even moved to decriminalize marijuana possession. Are our representatives so out of touch with their constituents, they cannot see the forest for all the trees?

Maybe it’s a matter of politics. The kind of back room bargaining that is all too familiar in the history of Pennsylvania.

It’s been suggested the status of alcohol sales may be the real reason the Pennsylvania State House is willing to utterly ignore the examples of successful legalization and functioning marketplaces that already exist in Colorado and Washington state.

The fact is, the Republican party may be holding medicinal marijuana–real medicine, desperately needed by real people– hostage to their desire to privatize alcohol sales in the state. That, maybe, if that happened, they’d be willing to go along with some form of legalization.

That’s the only explanation I can find for why they are treating legalization like we’re reinventing the wheel.

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Patrick NightingaleWe’re Not Reinventing the Wheel
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The Financial Waste of Illegal Marijuana

marijuana law reformSince Colorado legalized marijuana, we’ve seen numerous stories about the windfall of tax revenue reaped by the state. Money that is being used for education and social services.

What we’ve heard less about is the windfall reaped by the tax payers of Colorado no longer funding law enforcement efforts to interdict marijuana sales.

Consider the case here in Allegheny County of Jennifer Chieu, convicted of being the ringleader of a group that imported marijuana from California to the Pittsburgh area. The multi-million dollar ring was investigated extensively, eventually 19 people including Chieu.

(Read the Post-Gazette article here.)

 

Had Pennsylvania followed the lead of what are now 4 states with total legalization, they would have literally put Chieu out of business, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the costs of this single investigation, while reaping tax revenue for improving roads, services, education and drug treatment options for truly destructive drugs like heroin. Add to that the costs of imprisoning 19 people for periods of up to 11 years, and the cost of this one bust easily goes over the million dollar mark.

 

As an attorney, I actually work against my own financial interests fighting for legalization. After all, those people getting busted for pot need a lawyer. But I don’t want to earn money from injustice on a scale that infects the whole legal system with waste and encourages people like Chieu to take a chance at big money. And it truly breaks my heart that I sometimes find myself defending people whose only crime was seeking desperately needed medicine.

 

Marijuana cases clog up the court system with non-violent offenders. They occupy the time of Police, forcing them to waste resources arresting people for something even most cops will admit is harmless.

 

As was recently seen in the city of Philadelphia, minorities are arrested for marijuana possession at an alarmingly higher rate than whites, even though usage is proportionally equal. This was at the core of their city council’s recent decision to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. You can bet that for a major metropolis that like most big cities is strapped for cash, the costs of policing marijuana use also played a significant role in their decision. Although that’s short of legalization, it does remove the stigma of a drug arrest appearing on the record and reduces it to a summary offense, requiring a greatly reduced amount of resources for the city to enforce.

 

So the next time you read a story about how much tax revenue is being generated by legal marijuana in states like Colorado or Washington, consider the millions of dollars being saved– Dollars that law enforcement can now direct toward protecting the public from real crime.

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Patrick NightingaleThe Financial Waste of Illegal Marijuana
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Pennsylvania State Nurses Association backs legalizing medical marijuana

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at Best
The support for medicinal cannabis continues to grow. The American Nurses Association endorsed cannabis as a treatment option in 2008. Its 2008 position further clarified its decade long support for the medical efficacy of marijuana. It said “(t)he evidence demonstrates a connection between therapeutic use of marijuana and symptom relief. The American Nurses Association actively supports patients’ rights to legally and safely utilize marijuana for symptom management and health care practitioners’ efforts to promote quality of life for patients needing such therapy.” The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association endorsed medical marijuana in advance of the January 28, 2014, hearing on Senate Bill 1182, Pennsylvania’s medicinal marijuana bill. In its statement it said “‘We believe prescribers — including licensed nurse practitioners — should have all of the drugs that deliver any kind of clinically effective results available to use,’ said Betsy Snook, an RN and CEO of the association.”

Read the full report Here.

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Patrick NightingalePennsylvania State Nurses Association backs legalizing medical marijuana
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Drug Crimes Attorney Cautions Medical Marijuana Users

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania

Patrick Nightingale – a former Pittsburgh district attorney and founder of PKN Law – issued a statement this week warning all users, growers and distributors of legitimate medical marijuana in the US that arrest and incarceration may be imminent. Nightingale says that state laws that permit the sale and use of medicinal pot such as those in Oregon, California and Colorado may not be enough to protect against arrest by federal agents.

“Despite initial forward progress with medical marijuana legislation in 17 states, the federal government has been ignoring these state level laws for more than a year now, resulting in the arrest and incarceration of many law-abiding citizens.”

Nightingale pointed to reports of federal crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries in California and Colorado within the last week alone. In some cases warnings are being issued to cease operations, while in other cases arrests have been made and charges filed.

“It’s important to understand that even if you live in a state that has medical marijuana laws on the books, and even if you’re operating 100% within the regulations of those laws, you can still be tried and imprisoned. Lots of people are losing their jobs, their livelihood and even their personal freedom because they don’t understand the paradox of current medical marijuana legislation in the United States.”

In a recent article on the subject, Nightingale discusses the contradictory nature of the problem in reference to the general rationale behind the War on Drugs that marijuana has no medical value;

“US Patent 6630507 is especially hypocritical considering that the recent medical marijuana movement was largely based around the same types of medical benefits clearly noted by the US DHHS. In fact, it was precisely these benefits that led 16 States to pass medical marijuana legislation after significant public support.”

The US DHHS currently holds a patent on medical marijuana medicine, Nightingale points out.

But despite these hypocrisies, Nightingale warns that there’s a difference between maintaining principles and staying out of jail:

“The federal government is at odds with state laws regarding medical marijuana and is aggressively pursuing cases against people involved in this industry. Whether you agree with this confusing policy or not will have no impact on the likelihood that you’ll be arrested and convicted of federal drug crimes.”

When asked what options medical marijuana users and distributors have, Nightingale’s response was simple:

“You can do one of two things; accept the risks and continue undeterred, or discontinue involvement in or use of medical marijuana altogether. In either case, get out there and tell your lawmakers that this double-standard is not acceptable. Otherwise, the federal government is going to continue to railroad state laws, with good people getting hurt along the way.”

PKN Law is a Pittsburgh based law firm representing those who have been charged with drug crimes, white collar crimes, DUI, felony cases and gun crimes. To get an immediate consultation, to schedule an interview with Patrick Nightingale or to order a press kit, please visit http://www.patricknightingale.com, or call 412-454-5582.

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Public Relations ManagerDrug Crimes Attorney Cautions Medical Marijuana Users
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