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Corbett Now Supports Some Medical Marijuana; House GOP Leaders Balk

Gov. Tom Corbett has reversed his opposition to legalizing a certain kind of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The governor said Thursday he’ll support a proposal to make it available to people suffering from debilitating seizures.

Spokesman Jay Pagni said Corbett shared his decision first with parents and families advocating for medical marijuana in a private meeting Thursday in Harrisburg. A notice was sent simultaneously to other families who have been advocating for legalization, Pagni said.

Parents have been the driving force behind a state Senate proposal to allow doctors to prescribe cannabidiol, an oil extract from the marijuana plant that supporters say treats severe epilepsy. The drug is taken orally. It is not smoked.

Pagni said Corbett supports creating a pilot program for the drug. The program would be based in certain Pennsylvania hospitals and operate in conjunction with a parental advisory board.

Corbett had been against legalization short of federal research on medical marijuana taken orally, and not smoked. Earlier this week, supporters threatened to stage a sit-in outside the governor’s office if he didn’t meet with them. But Corbett’s office said the position flip is the product of months of discussions.

“Since last year the governor and the department of health, including the secretary of health and the physician general have met with families,” said Pagni. He added that Corbett remains interested to see the results of federal Food and Drug Administration studies of medical marijuana. Trials have begun at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which Pagni said would be a partner in the pilot program.

A plan to make the drug available would require approval from the state Legislature. The Senate Majority Leader, Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) expressed his support for the measure Thursday. But House Republican leaders are opposed, said spokesman Steve Miskin.

“Everybody wants to alleviate pain and suffering of these kids but we don’t believe that states should be approving or not approving medicine,” Miskin said. “Frankly, the Obama administration needs to get off its duff and expedite some studies on this.”