April 14, 2016

Bipartisanship Doesn’t Describe How Medical Marijuana Passed, It’s More Than That

It was a political odd couple that introduced the “Compassionate Use Of Medical Cannabis Act” in 2013 that lead, three years later, to its final passage Wednesday.
Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), a.k.a. Citizen Mike, first came to the Senate in 2007 in the first wave of conservative lawmakers after beating long-time Senator and Senate Majority Leader Chip Brightbill on the issue of the midnight pay raise.  He’s so conservative, he hasn’t voted for a single state budget.
Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) is one of the most liberal members of the Senate or House.  He champions abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the complete legalization of marijuana.  He came to the Senate in 2009 after being a House member since 2003.
Yet in 2013, they teamed up to introduce legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana.
Along the way, as an emotional Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said in Floor remarks Tuesday, Sen. Folmer worked unrelentingly to change member’s minds on the issue, including him, the hard way-- member by member.
Sen. Corman said the effort to pass medical marijuana was bringing to real life the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
The successful passage of the Compassionate Use Of Medical Cannabis Act is less an example of bipartisanship and of the Senate and House working with the Governor, than it is an example of what a handful of legislators have to do to work an issue through the General Assembly, backed by advocates who effectively told their stories.
In poll after poll, public support for medical marijuana only climbed.  Most results showed 85 percent or more of the public supported legalization of medical marijuana.
The medical marijuana issue also played a part in gubernatorial politics, when one-term Governor Tom Corbett first said he opposed the legislation.  
He badly fumbled the answer to a question on whether he would find a way to use marijuana if his then 2-year old grandson needed it.  He said he’d have to think about it, as a former prosecutor.  
His answer led to news headlines like, “Corbett Wouldn’t Legalize Pot Even If Toddler Grandson Needed It.”
But he came around on the issue, later.
Gov. Wolf never really had a hand in passing the legislation or in its negotiation.  It was purely a legislative initiative from the beginning. Like the final phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, he happened to be there at the end.
Let’s hope, however, the after-glow of passing a major piece of legislation shines on other issues like the budget.
The Senate and House put another Fiscal Code bill on the Governor’s desk this week-- House Bill 1589 (Causer-R- Cameron) to finish up the FY 2015-16 state budget.
A spokesperson for Gov. Wolf said he will review the legislation in its entirety and has not decided whether to sign or veto the bill.  He repeated the Governor's position that a new funding formula for basic education should not go into effect until after full funding is restored to schools.
We’ll see what happens there.
In the meantime, Pennsylvania has become the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana.  It’s a headline that might have been worthy of the fake news site the Onion, but it’s very real, especially to the people who need it and fought for it.
Enjoy the victory!
Editorial: Common Sense Prevails On Medical Marijuana