Conservative senator wants to legalize medical marijuana

The face of marijuana in the 1930's came from Reefer Madness and a man who was high and laughing uncontrollably before going berserk.

In the 1970's, Cheech and Chong gave us a softer, but not exactly upstanding, look at the life of pot lovers.

In the 1980's, in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jeff Spicoli was a lovable, though stupid stoner chasing tasty waves and good buds.

But in 2013, an unlikely pot pusher has emerged.

“Dennis, I'm a social conservative here,” said Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon).

Folmer is one of the most conservative lawmakers in Pennsylvania and he's crafting a bill to legalize medicinal marijuana.

“I just want to help people, Dennis, people that are really sick,” he said.

Folmer is motivated by his own battle with cancer that's lasted the past 18 months. He says he is now cancer free and his drugs worked, but he's seen patients who could be helped by cannabis who can't get it because it's illegal in Pennsylvania.

To Folmer, it makes no sense.

“We're not talking about banning Oxycontin, we're not talking about banning Percocet, we're not talking about banning Vicodin. If you're gonna say that we're afraid of the misuse of medical marijuana, you've gotta use that same philosophy and ban all the others also,” he said.

Lunchtime constituents at the Lebanon Farmer's Market support Folmer's position.

“I don't have a problem with that,” said Richard Avery, “but there must be strict regulations.”

James Young agrees, “It really is help for some people, and it's definitely needed for some people.”

Polls suggest more than 80 percent of Americans support medicinal marijuana.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger is making it an issue in his campaign and hopes to get higher in the polls by promising to legalize pot completely and then tax it.

“This is a case where doing the right thing is also smart politics,” Hanger said this week after being endorsed by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Nationally, we've reached a tipping point on this issue,” Hanger said.

Governor Tom Corbett is opposed to medicinal marijuana. Attorney General Kathleen Kane opposes widespread legalization of pot. Her spokesman says she is studying whether or not to support its legalization when prescribed by a doctor.

Opponents share a common fear voiced by one Lebanon resident.

“The problem is, if it's legalized, will it be abused?” Young said.

Folmer insists education will quell those fears.

“Do we want abuse of it? No,” he said. “I don't want abuse of alcohol, but that's legal. This isn't about somebody sitting around lighting up a doobie, this is about helping people who are sick.”


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