Pa. nurses group backs medical marijuana

So far, only one of the six nonprofits that New Jersey selected as medical marijuana dispensary operators two years ago has opened for business. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
So far, only one of the six nonprofits that New Jersey selected as medical marijuana dispensary operators two years ago has opened for business. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Posted: January 25, 2014

HARRISBURG The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association on Thursday became the first medical professional group in the commonwealth to publicly support a bill legalizing medical marijuana.

The group, representing more than 212,000 registered nurses in Pennsylvania, said it was backing Senate Bill 1182, which would protect patients who want to use medicinal marijuana and the health-care professionals who recommend it, from prosecution.

"We have been hearing a lot from our patients and their families about it, especially from those with seizure disorders, where traditional medical treatments are not effective," said Betsy Snook, the association's CEO and a nurse.

She said the group's endorsement was a reflection of nurses heeding their code of ethics "to bring about social change and bring about symptom relief for patients."

The bill, known as the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act," will be the subject of a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Snook said association members might testify.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who cosponsored the bill with Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon), said several doctors had independently supported the bill but he was grateful to the nurses as a group for "standing up for sick patients."

"As we all know, nurses are the ones who have the most frequent and direct contact with patients," said Leach. "They understand better than anyone the tragedy of disease and the miracle of medicine."

Leach's and Folmer's bill would allow patients who have a doctor's recommendation to buy medical cannabis from licensed care centers. The process - from the growth of plants to the administration of the medicine to the patient - would be regulated by the Departments of Health and Agriculture. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana.


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