Monday, April 25, 2016

Expressions of Gratitude: Representative Mark Cohen

Representative Mark B. Cohen, District 202 in Northeast Philadelphia is the most senior member in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, having served since 1974. Representative Cohen's extensive career has allowed him to work on many committees, reform measures and important pieces of legislation.

His committee assignments and legislative pursuits often reflected his desire to assist and advocate for the most vulnerable of our citizens as well as our working class families. As Chairman of the House Labor Relations Committee from 1983 to 1990, Representative Cohen focused on increasing the minimum wage and protecting worker's compensation benefits. He fought for improvement in access to timely compensation benefits for injured workers and to improve labor conditions for farm workers.

Representative Cohen's work on public health issues and as Democratic Chairman of the Human Services Committee allowed him to affect government programs, services and legislation which helped at risk populations as well as the general public. He fought for PA's Organ Donation Trust Fund law, which gave organizations specializing in organ transplantation hospital access to potential organ donors, set up a system of drivers' license identification for each potential organ donor, and publicized the need for organ donation.

Under pressure from the insurance industry, Governor Tom Corbett refused to implement newly established Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs as required by a law. Cohen, along with Representative DiGirolamo opposed the Governor's inaction by holding a public hearing in Harrisburg. And Cohen was ahead of his time when he co-sponsored a bill to establish the Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System in order to detect pharmaceutical drug abuse and substance use disorders, by people with addiction to them, back in 2011.

It was this foundation, established by Representative Cohen, which paved the way for what eventually became Act 16 of 2016, the Medical Marijuana Saw of PA. We are forever grateful to Representative Cohen for his foresite and courage to take a stand against an unjust law, and also for his continued support and dedication throughout this fight. His early leadership on this issue brought together and inspired dedicated advocates and patients who were instrumental in helping throughout the process to make medical marijuana a reality in PA.

Representative Cohen was also ahead of his time when it came to his support of medical marijuana for use by sick and suffering patients in PA. Cohen first introduced medical marijuana legislation in April of 2009 when he introduced HB 1393, an Act providing for the medical use of marijuana; and repealing provisions of law that prohibit and penalize marijuana use. It was apparent to Cohen that marijuana has medical benefit and there was no reason to deny patients access to it in a regulated system. He has sponsored similar legislation and has supported this cause ever since.

~Luke Shultz and the Team at Campaign4Compassion

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