Sen. Kitchen: More Medical Marijuana Advocacy Needed
State Senator Shirley Kitchen, who represents parts of North, Northwest and Northeast Philly, says more advocacy needs to be done to move Senate Bill 1003 forward. The 2011 bill, introduced by Sens. Leach, Farnese, and others, would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. It has been stalled in the Public Health and Welfare Committee, of which Kitchen is the minority chair, since April.
And she’s not optimistic about the bill going anywhere, any time soon.
“No one has spoken to me about [the bill],” says Senator Kitchen, on a recent call with PW. “I haven’t seen it on any memos, I don’t recall seeing anything, and that includes from advocates…you definitely have to have someone speaking up for it.”
She says a number of factors often go into moving a bill such as this forward: advocacy, priority of the Senate leadership and controversy surrounding the bill. This one, says Kitchen, who supports medical marijuana, is a dead loser on all three accounts. As of now, she says, the Senate will begin refocusing on Marcellus Shale and school voucher legislation after reconvening in the fall. However, the House version of the bill was re-introduced on June 23.
“As you know,” she says, “we’re not exactly a progressive state on certain things. I can think of several other states, even New Jersey, which goes back and forth on some issues. But we sometimes get stuck in one gear…I support this, but I need to feel comfortable that I don’t look out my doorway and see a 6-year-old kid outside smoking medical marijuana, similar to what we’ve seen on the gun issue.”
The Obama Administration pledged to let states write their own marijuana policies in October 2009. That may be on its way out, as the DEA recently ruled marijuana has no medical use. Therefore, it’s possible the entire state-wide issue will soon be moot.
The Senate needs to get a clear stance, she says, on how doctors would make decisions on prescribing it, how certification is defined and how to make sure there are no loopholes in the bill. But even with that aside, she says the idea itself may be too much for Pennsylvania to handle. This includes the fact that Gov. Corbett called medical marijuana a “gateway drug” while he was running for governor, and indicated he would not sign a bill in the unlikely scenario that it made its way to his desk.
“I don’t think I could [convince the governor on this issue],” she says. “If history is any indication, it doesn’t look good. Saying it’s a gateway to drug addiction and that we just took money away from recovery…a lot of people are just going to look at how marijuana is illegal, has been illegal and they’re going to go off on that.”
Image: PA Senate