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Here's why the Pa. House needs to approve an important medical marijuana bill: Montel Williams: VIDEO

























Montel Williams speaks at State Capital in support of allowing an up or down vote on Medical Marijuana legislation currently stalled in committee. June 11, 2015. James Robinson, PennLive.com

By Montel Williams

There's a large group of Americans who spend every day struggling with a serious debilitating illness. It's a mostly powerless and unheard group, and I'm a member.

Sixteen years ago, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my doctor told me I'd be in a wheelchair in four years and dead by 56.  Each and every day, for the past 16 years, I've faced intractable neuropathic pain that never goes away.  Sometimes, it's hard to put on a brave face.

I put on a brave face in public and on TV, but, make no mistake, MS is a daily battle.  The only reason I'm even able to even write this today is because my doctor, a world class neurologist, recommended medicinal marijuana.

To this day, it's the only therapy that works for me, and science has now proven why. My story pales in comparison to those of many I've met across the country. These silent sufferers don't have a platform to share their struggles, and often, lack access or can't afford the necessary care.

This year, the Pennsylvania Senate passed excellent, comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in the form of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon.

The bill has bipartisan support and passed the Senate on a 40-7 vote. The bill cleared a House committee last week and now awaits a vote by the full chamber. It could come as soon as this week. And that's good news.

That's because if it's put to a vote, the bill would pass. And Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to sign it—meaning all that separates seriously ill and suffering Pennsylvanians from access to a critical treatment is political maneuvering.

There is talk of an alternate bill allowing low-THC, CBD focused (or Charlotte's web) therapy.

That particular strain of marijuana is indeed helpful to young children with epilepsy. But marijuana is a complex plant, and we can't fool ourselves into believing its medical benefits will be achieved by isolating individual elements.

CBD might be non-intoxicating and might work for a small percentage of the sick and suffering, but not for individuals like me, or cancer patients undergoing chemo, or anguished veterans returning from the battlefield with PTSD or severe intractable pain.

Marijuana is a complex plant and its medical benefits cannot be fully realized with just one of its constituent elements.

Efforts like this get mired in politics all too often.  They get stifled by fear mongers, who have ulterior motives, sometimes acting on behalf of donors with a big financial stake in the result. I often hear the argument, "medical marijuana leads more kids using drugs."

That has been thoroughly refuted by multiple independent studies, which have found that teen medical marijuana usage has remained flat or decreased in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Others argue that medical marijuana leads to an increase in crime, but they offer absolutely no evidence.  These opposing arguments simply aren't true, and in my eyes, those using fear as a weapon to accomplish their political goals should be ashamed.

My critique might sound harsh, but so is leaving seriously ill Pennsylvanians without treatment, which is exactly what will happen if the Folmer bill continues to languish in the political doldrums.

In a recent Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania voters, 88 percent of respondents expressed support for making this option available to patients whose physicians determine could benefit.  With 88 percent of Pennsylvanians in favor, why is this bill being held up?

Don't the 88 percent of Pennsylvanians, including chronically ill patients who might benefit, deserve an up or down vote from the Pennsylvania House?

The House faces a simple choice, politically and morally.

Will it stand with an overwhelming majority of voters and its sick and suffering constituents?

Or will it allow a few of members to sidestep the democratic process and hold up a vote?

I hope Pennsylvania voters will stand up and voice their support. I encourage you to urge elected officials to bring the Folmer bill to a vote in the House.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by PENNLIVE
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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