Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Choose Patients

On April 17th, 2016, Medical Cannabis advocates in the state of Pennsylvania enthusiastically rejoiced as they witnessed Governor Tom Wolf sign SB3 into law. Victory was ours. Compassion won. And for a moment, there was peace in the hearts of patients and their loved ones.

We had been assured that as soon as the law went into effect, that parents of children who suffer from a condition listed in SB3 would fall under the protection of the “Safe Haven”. We were told during the time temporary regulations went into effect, after a 6 month period of drafting, that adult patients would be issued some sort of protection as well. We were satisfied.

Our beloved Luke Shultz, a chronic pain patient
who patiently continues to wait for safe access to medical cannabis.

Although the framework for the safe haven was set into the legislation, the adult protection seems to have been a costly assumption. It has now been communicated to us that any patient over the age of 18 will have to wait the 18 to 24 month period that it will presumably take to see our program operational. Not to worry though, “No one will prosecute patients,” they say…

Last week, our advocacy community was alerted to action being taken in the House Judiciary Committee. After almost a year in that committee, House Bill 1422 was being brought up for a vote. HB1422 amends the The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, specifically the guidelines on marijuana possession.

As written today, HB1422 proposes that for the first offense, the guilty party would be fined no less than $500. For a second offense, they would be fined no less than $750, both of these being a summary offense. For a third offense, the charge would be a third degree misdemeanor and they would pay a fine of no less than $1000.

Some have said the intention of this bill is to unclog the judicial system. That would make a whole lot of sense if these fines were perhaps slightly more reasonable.

Some say the intent was to undo the decriminalization ordinances that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have enacted. We may be getting closer to the truth here.

Some have said the intent was to deter people from using marijuana, after all we can’t just have everyone walking around with a buzz… But wait, there’s plenty of booze to get the job done. So…I’ll be the bearer of bad news, I suppose. Their logic is deeply flawed.

One brutally honest soul speculated that this was intended to generate revenue. Marijuana users are low hanging fruit.

All of this sort of left my head spinning. I just keep wondering if anyone was really listening to us. I did not just spend 3 years of my life fighting for patients to have the right to use medical cannabis just to spend the next 2 years watching them be punished for doing so.

If elected officials in the state of Pennsylvania wish to perpetuate the war on drugs, then I must respectfully ask that they take patients off the battlefield.

For 2 months, we have been diligently working towards a solution for the adult patients that don’t fit under the umbrella of this safe haven, so pardon me if I say this feels like a cold hard slap in the face of our community. While I realize if this bill were to actually be signed into law, jail is no longer a threat to them, I must ask that our legislature consider the outcome of the case where the chronic pain patient who lives off of a modest disability check can’t pay their fine. Spoiler alert: Their ass goes to jail.

A handful of adult patients who need to be legally protected...

Sure, sure, I understand many of you may think this is a dramatic overreaction, but I assure you ladies and gentlemen, unless you or your loved one are living day in and day out in agony, suffering from a disease from which you can only find relief in using medical cannabis, you have absolutely no right to expect these exhausted families to stay calm.

We need you to know, there are real people suffering, waiting for you do what is right. There are people whose conditions didn’t make the final cut. There are mothers who have children, who are over the age of 18, however, due to years of seizures, have suffered such horrific brain damage that leave them at the cognitive level of a small child. To us…to the people who heartbreakingly love them…they are still our babies. We are begging for your help. We are still waiting.

Two of my very favorite people, Susan and her daughter, Sara (21),
who sadly will not have legal protections to use medical cannabis
for her Autism and Crohn's Disease.

I’ll leave you with the words of Stephen Grellet, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Choose kindness. Choose compassion. Choose real, meaningful reform, as a gesture of good will towards a community of weary patients.

~Latrisha Bentch

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