The Sharrer family, including, from left, Annie, Angela, Matthew Jr. and Matthew Sr., will join York County families in a sit-in at the governor’s
The Sharrer family, including, from left, Annie, Angela, Matthew Jr. and Matthew Sr., will join York County families in a sit-in at the governor's office in a protest to advocate for medical cannabis.

Sitting on their posteriors might be the opposite action York County families imagined when they decided to advocate the use of medical marijuana for their ailing children.

But they're poised to employ that method now that letter-writing campaigns and Capitol rallies haven't yielded the desired results.

The Yorkers are among those planning a sit-in at Gov. Tom Corbett's office, saying the governor hasn't responded to their multiple requests for a meeting. The group, which includes members of Pa. Advocates for MMJ and the Campaign 4 Compassion, is giving Corbett until the end of Friday to set a date for a meeting, or they'll stage a sit-in at his Capitol offices until he agrees to meet.

The effort includes Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, who introduced a bipartisan medical marijuana legalization bill with Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon/Dauphin/York.

The local families say they've exhausted the use of ineffective mainstream pharmaceuticals for their children with intractable epilepsy, and they've exhausted the usual channels to get the governor's ear.

"I don't want to do this," said Cara Salemme, a 35-year-old North Codorus Township woman whose twin son, 7-year-old Jackson Salemme, was healthy until developing severe, brain-damaging seizures days after his fifth birthday. "There are people calling this 'theatrics' ... but I had really hoped it wouldn't come to this."


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The proverbial straw: Corbett's office said he has met with Folmer and other families about medical cannabis, but Salemme said advocates want Corbett to meet with the groups representing numerous families statewide.

"We have a lot of really smart, thoughtful parents that are just trying to get his attention," she said. "I don't understand why he won't just sit down and talk to us. I'm not a mean person and I don't want to put Gov. Corbett in that position (a sit-in at his office) either."

She said she's not sure whether a meeting with Corbett would actually sway him, but she and other parents feel they have a right to be heard about the cannabis-derived oil treatments they believe will help their children.

Salemme said one "straw that broke the camel's back" was Corbett's statement that he would be too distraught to legalize medical marijuana if his own grandson suffered from seizures.

"He just cannot be that uncompassionate," she said. "The statement about his grandchild was difficult because, with every fiber of my being, I know that was not true."

If the sit-in is called and Jackson's health permits, he will attend in a wheelchair along with the 17 pills he takes every day and his other medical equipment, she said. Her son has multiple seizures per day, "but he also sits at home and has seizures all day," she said, adding the governor's office is closer to Hershey Medical Center and other hospitals than her North Codorus Township home.

Jackson's condition grows progressively worse, and numerous pharmaceuticals have failed to control his seizures while causing life-threatening side effects, she said. His family and others cling to medical cannabis as a last hope after seeing remarkable stories of progress from children in states where it's legal.

The debate has turned some self-described conservative parents and grandparents into unlikely advocates. Among them are Angela Sharrer, a Tyrone Township, Adams County, woman whose 9-year-old daughter, Annie Sharrer, has intractable epilepsy that only responded to one prescribed drug — but that one drug gave the girl life-threatening pancreatitis, Angela Sharrer said.

The "quiet, private" parents said their evangelical Lutheran pastor is one of their most loyal and public supporters in their quest for access to medical marijuana. Annie's neurologist is among those who have said the treatments wouldn't hurt, but could help, the 37-year-old mother said.

"Nobody wants to (have a sit-in)," she said. "But we're kinda at the point now where we're trying to advocate for something that could help our children. That's what you do as a parent. I don't think one meeting is asking a lot."

Forum coming: The local parents are also among those expected to attend a Thursday medical marijuana forum hosted by Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Chambersburg, and state Reps. Dan Moul, R-Conewago Township, and Will Tallman, R-Reading Township.

The town hall-style session will be held at Southeastern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services, 5865 Hanover Road in Conewago Township, Adams County, and will begin at 6 p.m.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.