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PA: Spice/K2 Prohibition Gets Fast Track, Medical Marijuana Bills Wait (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2010
CONTACT: Chris Goldstein at 215-586-3483 or [email protected]

PA: Spice/K2 Prohibition Gets Fast Track, Medical Marijuana Bills Wait

Pennsylvania saw medical marijuana bills HB 1393 and SB 1350 introduced last year. A Franklin&Marshall poll found that a whopping 80% of residents support the legislation, this was across the political spectrum.

Medical marijuana is currently the most broadly supported policy issue in Pennsylvania. Still, PA residents with serious medical conditions are waiting for the General Assembly to hold even a Committee level vote on the bills.

Since the issue is enjoying such strong backing from the voting public you’d think that medical marijuana would become positive political capital in an election year. But politicos do not know how to handle the numbers: They pop champagne bottles when their polls hit the high 30s…dare we say 40s. This whole range of 60-80 percent is new ground.

Instead of helping ill residents with an affordable, local health care alternative by legalizing cannabis therapy elected officials decided that they would rather spend their time banning something new.

This week the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee unanimously (24-0) voted forward HB 176, a bill that would ban a new set of chemical fad drugs.

Legislators and the media are incorrectly labeling the substances “fake pot” or “synthetic marijuana” but the compounds are not at all like natural cannabis. They are more akin to chemical inhalants.

The fad drugs are sold as packets of incense with hundreds of label names like “Spice” or “K2.” Bans in other states have been completely ineffective as the ingredients are changed and access is readily available online.

Users seek an undetectable high. Because these chemicals are nothing like marijuana, users can pass all standard workplace drug screens. There are no intoxication urine tests or police field tests for the drugs. Tests would not be mandated by HB 176 and would be expensive to develop.

Some of the Spice/K2 type compounds contain synthetic cannabinoids; some contain already controlled substances. The truly dangerous part about these chemical drugs is that the ingredients are wholly unknown and the chemical recipe varies among the hundreds of brands.

Now, Harrisburg is literally creating a new drug problem in Pennsylvania where there was none previously. It is a horrifying, textbook example of why prohibition policy does not work.

As a marijuana reform advocate in Pennsylvania, I am getting a Kafkaesque front-row seat.

These politics are playing out on the streets of Pennsylvania. Residents are being told there is a legal high available, somehow like marijuana, and they are eagerly seeking it out.

HB 176 has been the most effective marketing and advertising tool for these chemical drugs, ever. There was little awareness of these Spice/K2 type chemical drugs locally before the bill was introduced to prohibit them.

The intention of HB 176’s more than thirty legislative co-sponsors is to quell the use of the Spice/K2 type drugs. Of course, the narrative taken by these legislators and the media to the public is having the opposite effect, causing a tremendous spike in interest and real-world use.

An effective deterrent might be having several Spice/K2 brands tested for their actual ingredients. Publishing the long list of strange and nasty chemicals in this stuff would keep many residents away from it.

Legislators could stand in line with overwhelming public support for a positive health solution with medical marijuana.  Natural marijuana is safe, effective, non-toxic and non-lethal. Humans have been using it for thousands of years. 

We have had doctors, severely ill residents, medical experts, religious leaders and community leaders testify in favor of medical marijuana. A flood of written testimony and emails has come in from all corners of Pennsylvania to support medical marijuana.

But, instead of heeding this call, elected officials are moving full-election year-throttle ahead with another senseless, ineffective prohibition. This could leave Pennsylvania to deal with another new drug problem, of its very own invention, for years to come.

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