OP-ED: Next steps on medical marijuana
My efforts to help sick children, veterans and others by bringing medical cannabis to Pennsylvania began with a meeting with two mothers of children with seizures. While the journey has been long, I'm pleased with the progress we've made over the past year. My goal has been – and continues to be — helping those Pennsylvanians with medical challenges — especially children with seizures and veterans with PTSD — to benefit from medical cannabis.
We recently took another important step as the Pennsylvania Senate overwhelmingly passed my Senate Bill 3 by a 40-7 vote. This is the second time the Senate has considered and passed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a treatment option for people with diseases and debilitating conditions. SB 3 is a more comprehensive bill than last session's SB 1182 thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates and the continued strong support of my Senate colleagues.
I especially want to thank Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46, Beaver, Greene and Washington Counties, who partnered with me to strengthen and expand SB 3. Working together, we were able to get a number of key changes into the bill, including an expansion of the list of diseases and treatable conditions to include Crohn's Disease, Diabetes and chronic or intractable pain.
We were also able to add vaporization as a delivery method for cannabis, which would be particularly beneficial to children with seizures and veterans with PTSD. I'm pleased Sen. Bartolotta and I were able to explain the important differences between nebulization and vaporization.
Nebulization is the process of creating a fine mist from a liquid. Vaporization is the process of creating a fine mist, or vapor, from a liquid or a solid. An example of the difference between the two is Vicks VapoRub, which can be vaporized but not nebulized to create a vapor that can be taken into the sinuses and lungs where the medicine has a more immediate impact.
This is especially important when administering medical cannabis. Vaporized cannabis has a more rapid effect because it's delivered to the lungs as a mist and goes directly into the blood stream within seconds. Ingesting cannabis can take an hour or more to take effect, which is a problem for veterans suffering panic attacks due to PTSD where time is of the essence.
With vaporization, the dosage is also better minimized and adjusted. The patient can start with a low dose, knowing they can safely and rapidly escalate the dose and not have to wait hours to get it right, as with ingested cannabis.
Senate Bill 3 as passed by the full Senate represents countless hours of discussion, deliberation, debate, drafting and redrafting. I'm so grateful to everyone who labored to fine tune and pass this legislation.
However, our work is not over as we now begin the journey in the House of Representatives, which has not had the same opportunities to study this issue as has the Senate. I look forward to working with the House to bring them up to date on the provisions of SB 3 and to help explain the importance of bringing this medicine to Pennsylvania.
While there will continue to be concerns with medical cannabis and some will not be able to support SB 3 because of these concerns, please know you're not my enemies. I too have opposed bills I could not support in my heart and I understand and appreciate the dilemmas with SB 3 because I too have been there. Hopefully, as this journey continues, you too will be convinced.
Finally, to those who are disappointed we weren't able to get more into Senate Bill 3, I'm sorry — we tried. And, we have a solid foundation with which to begin deliberations in the House.
— State Sen. Mike Folmer is a Republican representing the 48th District, which includes parts of York County.