Governor Tom Corbett has changed his position on medical marijuana and is proposing legislation that would allow the research of a marijuana extract and the treatment of severe seizures in children.
Corbett made the announcement Thursday after he and First Lady Susan Corbett met with parents of children who have Dravet Syndrome and other severe seizure disorders.
The governor said he is proposing legislation that would allow a research-based pilot program with leading children’s hospitals in Pennsylvania.
The pilot program would provide access to treatment for affected families and further scientific study of the use of CBD, or cannabidiol, an oil derivative of cannabis that is taken orally.
“I have been looking at this issue extensively over the past few months and listening to many perspectives,” Corbett said in a statement. “I have heard the concerns and heartbreaking stories of these families and want to help. However, we must address this issue in a way that helps these families, but also protects the public health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”
Corbett’s spokesman told The Associated Press that cannabidiol would be dispensed by research-based hospitals with medical professionals who are experienced in treating children with severe seizure disorders.
The plan will need approval from the state legislature.
“I look forward to working with the legislature to help these children,” Corbett said in the statement. “We can develop a responsible solution if we put politics aside and work together.”
Corbett’s proposal is more conservative than legislation pending in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 1182, which would allow Pennsylvania physicians to prescribe medicinal cannabis to children and adults.
Corbett previously said he would veto that bill if it reached his desk.
Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach, who authored Senate Bill 1182 with conservative Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, said he is encouraged that Corbett has “finally seen the inhumanity of denying sick people medicine that can make them better.”
Folmer said it’s refreshing that Corbett is more open to the issue, but added that he would like to go further than what the governor is proposing.
“We can’t forget veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer patients, and the many others who could benefit from medical cannabis,” Folmer said in a news release. “We need to help those with diseases who are suffering seizures and pain.”
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi also commended Corbett for his action.
“Pennsylvania is fortunate to have world-class children’s hospitals,” Pileggi said. “If a child’s physician believes that cannabidiol would relieve suffering, state law should not stand in the way. I will continue to work with Senator Folmer on his legislation and look forward to sending a bill to the Governor’s desk.”