HANOVER, Pa. (WHTM) – As the state’s medical marijuana fight stalls in the statehouse, activists haven’t given up pushing for public support.
One of those demonstrating Saturday in York County was more recognizable than most: Chuck Homan was arrested on marijuana charges last year.
“I just don’t know what else to do,” he said Saturday.
He says he uses it to treat manic depression; last month, a York County judge said that’s okay and found him not guilty.
But it’s “not a real comfortable position to be in,” he said with a laugh. “I still live in fear.”
He hasn’t stopped using pot, which means he could be arrested again. But he still petitioned the streets of Hanover over the week, rallying support for medicinal cannabis.
“Seizures and stuff among these children,” he said, “concentrations of CBDs definitely stop their seizures.”
Cannabidiol, also called CBDs, is a non-psychoactive chemical in marijuana that’s been identified as one of the main medically-useful compounds.
Diana, 18, has intractable epilepsy. She’s had seizures since she was 9 days old. Her mom, Louann Speese, of Mechanicsburg, found out about pot as a possible way to control them.
They went to Colorado, and it worked; but she couldn’t get it here.
“So I went underground,” Speese said. “And I’ve been using medical cannabis on my daughter since 2013.”
The compounds are used in patches that look like adhesive bandages. Speese puts one on each of Diana’s ankles, changing them every 12 hours. One patch contains cannabidiol, the other THCA, another compound in cannabis.
She knows she’s breaking the law; she knows she might get caught. It happened once already.
Not too long ago, Diana had to go to the hospital. Doctors ran a urine analysis and detected the compounds. County and state officials showed up to ask a few questions.
With two other kids, Speese said she understands the risks.
“You want the best for your child no matter what,” she said. “And I just want to give my child some type of quality of life.”
A bill to legalize the compounds for some conditions has lingered in the House Rules Committee since June.
Some opponents in the medical community say the science just isn’t clear yet. Still others just aren’t comfortable giving chemicals found in currently-illegal drugs to children.
But some supporters say they just can’t wait. They argue it’s costing lives.
“I’m not about to keep quiet on something so unjust and wrong,” Homan said.
A nonprofit organization advocating for medical cannabis legislation in Pennsylvania will hold a rally at 1 Center Square in Hanover Nov. 14.
Sher Simcisko, director of Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, said the organization plans to host several speakers, educate the public about medical cannabis and discuss the proposed medical marijuana bill before legislators in Pennsylvania from 1 to 3 p.m.
The event is organized in conjunction with Chuck Homan, a bipolar man who was acquitted of a marijuana possession charge after arguing in York County court that he needs marijuana to treat his manic depression.
Simcisko, 57, of State College said Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, or PA Safe Access, organizes seminars, rallies and other events across the state.
“We’ll be talking about how people can get involved,” she said.
“We just recently had a rally in Altoona, and a lot of people that came didn’t even know there was a bill up for consideration,” she said.
Simcisko said she has benefited from medical marijuana as she uses it to alleviate seizures, chronic pain from scoliosis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. She became active with PA Safe Access after learning about children suffering from seizures who found relief by using medical marijuana.
At least a dozen people took center stage at Heritage Plaza on Friday.
People came with signs of supportfor medical cannabis, sharing their stories. One mom, came from Fayette County.
“It’s harder and harder everyday to wait and to keep putting this off,” said Julie Michaels.
Michaels wants to see a bill passed soon. Her daughter has anywhere from six to 3,000 seizures a week. She said this is a battle for her daughter’s life
“She has tried and failed over 13 different anti-epileptic drugs already and we’re very limited with what we’re left to try.”
“We’ve voted it through the senate twice already we’ve had the big milestones and then we’ve sat and we waited,” said Christy Billett, Pennsylvanians for Safe Access.
Billett has organized rallies in the Harrisburg area. She said all the people at the rally Friday prove just how needed the cannabis is.
“We’ve had the opportunity to get it out of the committee it was stuck in and I believe it was our rallies and the collective efforts between us and keystone cannabis coalition and campaign for compassion that we just kept the pressure on.”
The Pennsylvania Medical Society does not support the use of medical cannabis. they say there is not enough evidence to. but they are meeting this weekend to discuss compassionate use.
Organizers of the rally are hoping for a bill to get passed by the first of the year. Lawmakers across our area are split when it comes to medical cannabis; some are even undecided.
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Marijuana is slated to take center stage this afternoon in downtown Altoona, where advocates, experts and those interested in receiving information are to gather to discuss the drug’s medical applications. An advocacy group, Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, is scheduled to host an educational medical cannabis rally beginning at 4 p.m. at Heritage Plaza, co-organizer Christy Billett said. It’s important to bring it to our hometowns, Billett, a Huntingdon resident, said of pro-cannabis information. The event is to feature statements from a number of patients and families who have used or are waiting to use marijuana to treat ailments, such as seizures, chronic pain, mental illness and forms of cancer, said Sher Simcisko, a State College-based advocate. Billett, who has been involved with several Harrisburg-based rallies, said she expects more than 100 patients to attend the event. Marijuana, Billett said, is often preferred to opiate-based medications, which can sometimes lead to addiction. Simcisko said she has both occasional seizures and chronic pain, but her impetus to get involved stemmed from what she learned about suffering children. When I found out these kids are having seizures, like a hundred a day, I couldn’t not speak out. I couldn’t not help them. Simcisko said she and other advocates plan to help by spreading information, including fliers, which will cover topics like pro-cannabis legislation and how it came to be illegal. Local medical cannabis advocate, Ryan Hollingsworth, also a chronic pain sufferer, said the city has a special tie to marijuana’s illegalization. Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics who led a campaign against marijuana, resided in Altoona for many years, Hollingsworth said. Hollingsworth said he became an advocate after attending pro-cannabis events across the country after his mother died from cancer. People are afraid of (marijuana) because there is a negative stigma out there, he said. We need to legalize. There are many, many people out there right now who could use this. Billett said she invited every legislator within 30 miles of Altoona, and all of them declined to attend. However, that isn’t the norm, she said. Every time I was in Harrisburg, I had at least five legislators standing beside me, she said. In addition to patients, Billett said the group has reached out to medical professionals, though it is unclear if they’ll be in attendance.
A press conference is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., and the event is to end at 7 p.m.
Traveling toward Heritage Plaza along 11th Avenue Fridayevening, motorists and pedestrians were greeted by a multi-color sign boasting the message: “Cannabis is medicine.”
With that notion in mind, dozens of medical marijuana advocates gathered at the plaza to voice their support for the drug, educate the public and put pressure on legislators to vote for legalization.
“This is a quality of life thing,” said Christy Billett, an event co-organizer with Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, an advocacy group. “This is not a Cheech and Chong thing.”
Onlookers — some clad in shirts and hats depicting green marijuana leaves — sat on the plaza’s semicircular ledge while Billet offered information about the drug’s medical applications.
See Rally/Page A8 RALLY: Some in crowd were chanting ‘legalize’ (Continued from Page A1) The information listed cancer, post traumatic stress disorder and seizures among some of the conditions marijuana could treat.
She also spoke out against some of the stoner stigma, explaining there are many ways — other than smoking — that cannabis can be administered to sick patients in need.
“Does it look like we are doing bong hits?” she said. “It’s not about getting high. It’s about getting healthy.”
Julie Michaels — a Fayette County teacher, Republican and mother — said she could support that message.
Michaels, who also spoke from the stage, said her 6-year-old daughter, Sydney, suffers from Dravet syndrome, which causes here to have as many as 3,000 seizures per week.
Michaels said Sydney’s seizures started when she was only a few months old, and, throughout the years, she has been subjected to seemingly countless medication prescriptions, some with negative side effects.
Traveling as far as Harrisburg to attend pro-cannabis rallies, Michaels said she’s been working to lobby for medical marijuana, which she thinks could help ease her daughters symptoms.
“It’s no different from any other medication,” she said. “People just don’t understand it.”
Michaels wasn’t alone in her beliefs. Altoona resident Glenda Brantner and Duncansville resident Diana Trauger, both wearing cannabis-leaf T-shirts, said they and many others could benefit from the drug.
Brantner, a cancer survivor, said she has grandchildren with conditions like autism, attention deficit disorder and seizures, who could benefit from marijuana use.
“It’s criminal not to let us use this,” Brantner said, comparing marijuana to some addictive painkillers and other medications. “They want to pass those out like Skittles.”
Trauger, who has lupus, said she could benefit from marijuana use, but, with social responsibilities, she can not afford the consequences of using an illegal drug.
“I know a lot of people who wouldn’t even come here because they are afraid of what people might think,” she said of the rally.
Trauger said she hopes the rally helped to spread the pro-cannabis message to the public.
And some in attendance were spreading that message loudly, continually chanting “legalize.”
Jayme Jenkins of Altoona said he hopes legalization will come soon. Jenkins said he has a condition that makes him nervous and was prescribed pills that “turn him into a zombie.”
Marijuana, he said, would help his condition greatly, though he can’t use it because it is illegal.
Ryan Hollingsworth, also a chronic pain sufferer, said the city has a special tie to marijuana’s illegalization. Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics who led a campaign against marijuana, resided in Altoona for many years, he said.
“We’ve been lied to for too long,” Hollinsgworth said of the negative stigmas placed on the drug. “It’s just a matter of getting people out and getting people talking.”
Video from Partipants
Members of PA Safe Access were in Towanda on Saturday, September 26, supporting local advocates to educate the public about the need to give PA patients safe access to medical marijuana.
Coverage by Department of Health and Human Services, State of Nebraska
Citizens Rally For Medical Marijuana In Towanda
Daily Review (Towanda, PA) – 9/27/2015
Sept. 27–TOWANDA — Rebekkah Roth, 36, of Lebanon, Pa., credits cannabis oil for curing her brain cancer.
Speaking Saturday at a rally for the legalization of medical marijuana, which was held in front of the Bradford County Courthouse, Roth said that people who are diagnosed with the type of brain cancer she had, glioblastoma multiform, have a life expectancy of no more than 15 months.
“I am surviving at 23 months past my surgery,” she said. “I do use cannabis oil. I have no had active cancer at all now. It is definitely a blessing for me.”
Christy Billett, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Safe Access, told the approximately 25 people at the rally that medical marijuana is useful for a variety of medical problems, such as helping children with seizures and addressing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Among the advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in Harrisburgare “Bible-thumping” Sen. Mike Folmer and Rep. Mike Regan, who is a former U.S. marshal, Billett said.
“Cannabis is a medicine” which has been used for many centuries to address many ailments and disorders, and by not legalizing medical marijuana, they are “killing a cure,” said medical marijuana activist Laura Joe Kincaid of the LeRaysville area, who organized the rally.
Kincaid said she is confident that a bill legalizing medical marijuana will be passed and signed into law in the coming months in Pennsylvania.
“This bill is close (to being passed), and when it comes to fruition hundreds of thousands of patients will flourish, instead of perish,” Kincaid told those at the rally.
In an interview, Billett said that Senate Bill 3, which would legalize certain types of medical marijuana, has twice passed the Pennsylvania Senate, most recently in May 2015.
However, the bill became bottled up in the House of Representative’s Health Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Matt Baker, R-Wellsboro, refused to allow the bill to come out of committee, so that it could be considered by the full House for a vote, Billett said. She said the House has enough votes to pass the bill.
However, a motion to move the bill to another House committee, which Baker supported, did pass this summer, and the bill is now before the House Rules Committee.
Billett said she believes that an amended version of Senate Bill 3 will be passed this year and be signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf. The bill will not have to return to the Health Committee, she said.
One of the people attending the rally was former Bradford CountyCommissioner Janet Lewis. She said she came to the rally because she was “curious” about it.
Lewis also said: “I think medical marijuana should be legalized.”
“I have heard too many cases where it has helped people,” Lewis said.
“I think the Legislature is afraid of the stigma,” Lewis continued. “They visualize hippies smoking pot.”
The Legislature should “look beyond the stigma and do research. There are people who are actually being helped” by medical marijuana, Lewis said.
Billett said that the rally was not instigated by outside pro-medical marijuana groups anxious to come to Towanda to bash Baker. Rather, the rally was organized by local people who invited Pennsylvanians for Safe Access to attend it, she said.
Additional Videos by Pennsylvanians for Safe Access
Members of PA Safe Access were in Harrisburg on Tuesday, September 22, along with many other advocates to show lawmakers that the time is now for a vote on a bill to allow PA patients safe access to medical marijuana.
Lawmakers and parents join in the fight for medical marijuana