The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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January 11, 2014

Pot plan not high on party list, Dem says

LEWISBURG — LEWISBURG — Recent reports that Gov. Tom Corbett had changed his long-standing position against legalizing medical marijuana — let alone any weed in Pennsylvania — were discounted by his office late last week, but revealed the quick pervasiveness the subject has in this fall’s gubernatorial campaign.

Former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger, one of nine Democrats vying for the nod in this spring’s primary, has made legalizing marijuana in all forms a key platform of his campaign.

Particular emphasis on medical marijuana, specifically a compound found to relieve severe seizure disorders in children, has brought out parents from the Valley and all over the Keystone State in support of the measure to help their suffering kids.

But on Thursday, the governor’s office clarified Corbett’s position: The Republican remains against legalizing medical marijuana in order to uphold federal drug laws, according to a Thursday report on Philly.com.

Corbett also would veto any legalization legislation that comes to his desk.

The governor would “take under consideration” any move by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve pot for medical use, and that was consistent with Corbett’s long-standing position, Philly.com reported Corbett’s spokesman Jay Pagni as saying.

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver, R-108, Sunbury, asked about the FDA’s position on medical marijuana during recent visits with constituents who spoke with her about the benefits a cannabinoid has on epileptic children.

“I would like to know more about this before I take a stand,” Culver said, “specifically the FDA’s position on it.”

Culver said she is still reading the bill introduced in November by state Sens. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, and Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, to legalize the marijuana compound to treat children.

However, as Philly.com reported, the FDA cannot approve drugs without clinical trials, and clinical trials are restricted as long as marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 banned substance.

State Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, Kreamer, and state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, Loyalsock Township, could not be reached for comment by deadline Friday.

How big an issue legalizing marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, will be in the May primary is unknown, said Rick Thomas, chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee.

“The general sentiment may be leaning favorably toward (Hanger) but he’s not at the top of everybody’s radar,” Thomas said. “Most of us feel it’s an important issue that needs to be discussed, and there is compelling evidence things need to be changed.”

But as far as it making Hanger a front-runner among the nine primary candidates, “I personally don’t know of anyone who has put him out in front because of that one issue.”

Thomas said he’s willing to believe all the candidates, most of whom he’s met, are sympathetic to the cause to some extent because marijuana in certain uses has shown promise and people are in favor of legalization.

“There’s a commonality there with what they want to do about it,” he said.

The state Democratic committee will meet next month in Hershey.

Some do not see legalizing marijuana as a prime issue in the fall election, “not for Pennsylvania, really,” said Yvonne Morgan, of the Union County Republican Committee.

“I’m a cynic about it,” Morgan said of the benefits of medicinal marijuana. “I certainly would want to see people have the relief that they need, but utilizing it is a whole other step.”

“I don’t think it’s a fight that the GOP is going to engage in,” she said.

As a state, “We have so much other things to address, like transportation, privatizing the liquor stores, other things. I don’t see it coming up in Pennsylvania in the election cycle.”

 

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