Saturday, October 17, 2015

Call for Compassion

If members of our community plan to visit a place of worship this weekend, please consider asking your faith leaders to sign on to to show their support for the compassionate use of cannabis. Also, please urge them to join Clergy for Compassion on Wednesday, October 21st at 11:00am at the Capital in Harrisburg. 

Below, you can read thoughts from Clergy for Compassion member and our dear friend, Pastor Shawn.

My name is Pastor Shawn Berkebile. I serve a conservative, Adams county congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Two years ago I joined the efforts of Campaign for Compassion and began lobbying for Medicinal Cannabis legislation. I have always believed that God calls us to speak for the voiceless, the suffering, and the hurting. However, my involvement in this particular cause started with one young girl and her family.

Annie is a nine year old girl diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. Annie’s parents and grandparents are long time members of our church and they have been doing everything imaginable to provide her with the quality of life all children deserve. It seemed that every month she was on a new medication with very few positive results. Side effects of the synthetic cocktail she was prescribed sent her to the hospital more times than aggressive seizures. It was heartbreaking to watch Annie (and her family) struggle. Of course we offered our prayers and our support, but I still wished I could do more to help. Then I learned that the one thing that could provide relief was unavailable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So I started to educate myself about the compassionate use of marijuana and I joined Annie’s parents in their lobbying effort. 

My formal involvement started with one town hall meeting about two years ago, and has continued to rallies on the steps of the Capital building, individual meetings with lawmakers, letter writing campaigns, and more. Now I am supporting a charge of clergy to pass legislation for medicinal marijuana. It started with helping the voiceless child in my congregation with epilepsy and now I see how the compassionate use of marijuana can help so many people that are struggling. 

Across Pennsylvania, there are people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and other debilitating conditions for which medical marijuana can provide significant medical benefits. With additional research and funding we can no doubt find even more ways this medicine can be used to safely and effectively treat a wide range of conditions. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people suffering right now – in our homes, at our places of work, in line at the grocery store, and sitting in our houses of worship. People who are suffering and need effective treatment. This is why I cannot remain silent. 

Medical marijuana is providing hope for the hopeless and I want the lawmakers of Pennsylvania to realize this. The Pennsylvania Senate has been bold enough to address this issue and move legislation forward. Now it is time for action on the floor of the PA House of Representatives. 90% of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana, yet we still see politicking and stall tactics at play. We must move medical marijuana legislation to the floor of the House for a vote.

On Wednesday, October 21st clergy and faith leaders can show their support and press our lawmakers to pass medical marijuana legislation. At 11:00am we will gather on the second floor of the Capitol Rotunda and speak in support of Senate Bill 3 and medical marijuana legislation. Along with your in-person support on the 21st, here are some other ways clergy can get involved:

 Show your support by signing the petition on 

 Write a letter to the editor of your local paper 

 Call, e-mail, or meet with your state representative and the representatives of your congregants.

 Get updates by signing up for alerts at 

 Visit, the Pennsylvania patient advocacy group that has been the driving force behind medical cannabis legislation in Pennsylvania.

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