Gov. Tom Wolf held an impromptu reception Tuesday for parents of children who are suffering daily from debilitating seizures and vowed to sign a medical marijuana bill that senators are writing.
The greeting in Wolf's ornate Capitol reception room followed a news conference at which Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer said they plan to broaden their legislation that overwhelmingly passed the Senate last fall.
That bill was opposed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett and died when the House did not act on it at the end of the legislative session.
Leach, D-Montgomery, and Folmer, R-Lebanon, envision a new bill that would expand the list of 10 authorized medical conditions to give doctors more leeway to prescribe medical marijuana as they see fit. The senators also plan to expand drug delivery methods to include smoking and vaporization, as well as extracted oils, edible products, ointments and tinctures.
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That bill has not been written, but Wolf said he will support it.
"If they support it and it takes us farther down the road toward what we all want, which is full legalization of medical marijuana, giving doctors the ability and the right to prescribe medicine they think that patients need, I'm for it," Wolf said.
Support for a medical marijuana bill is untested in the state House of Representatives, and Republican leaders there have pledged no support for the Senate's approach. A spokesman for House Republican leaders said Tuesday that the Health and Judiciary committees are planning a series of joint hearings on the subject.
At their news conference, Leach and Folmer were flanked by eight other senators, including Majority Leader Jake Corman and Minority Leader Jay Costa. At least a half-dozen families of children who suffer daily seizures attended the event and went to Wolf's reception room afterward, including Dana Ulrich, whose 7-year-old daughter, Lorelei, suffers from severe seizures.
"We've tried all of her medication options and so we're hoping for a new option with medical cannabis and we're hoping you can help lead us there," Ulrich told Wolf.
Louann Speece told Wolf that her 17-year-old daughter, Diana, has had seizures since she was 9 days old.
"She is a shell. I know she's in there. She doesn't speak, she doesn't really feed herself very well," Speece told Wolf. "I want her to have a good quality of life so hopefully she can convey her needs and wants to people other than me."
Support for the bill has been propelled by parents who believe a marijuana oil extract can help their children. The seizures can inflict brain damage and their affected children often function well below grade level, the parents say. Some parents in Pennsylvania have decided not to wait and are seeing improvement in their children after tapping into a network that brings marijuana oil extracts to states that ban it, Leach and Ulrich said.
Leach and Folmer also want their bill to allow for the wider treatment of others, such as veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer victims.