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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of March 16, 2015

Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania Dental Outreach Event
On May 29 and 30 there will be a free dental clinic for children and adults at the Farm Show Complex (North Hall entrance) with a host of dentists, hygienists, dental students and volunteers. This is the third annual Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania (MOM-n-PA) dental outreach event.

With more than 100 fully equipped dental units, volunteers hope to provide services to more than 2,000 patients during the clinic. X-rays, dental fillings, extractions, root-canal treatments and cleanings will be provided. There are no eligibility requirements and no pre-registration. Doors will open at 6:00 a.m. on May 29. Children 12 and under should come on Saturday. For more information, visit www.mom-n-pa.com.

PennDOT Announces Prep and Road Work on State Route 934
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced prep work began March 9 on a 4.74-mile section of Route 934 and Fisher Avenue near Interstate 81 in Lebanon County. Pennsy Supply, Inc. of Annville has been awarded the contract.

Work to be done includes: tree trimming, drainage pipe replacement, inlet work, roadway base repair, milling, shoulder work, bituminous resurfacing, accelerated concrete patching on the on-and-off ramps, guiderail updates, new signs and pavement markings on Route 934 from Palmyra-Bellegrove Road in North Annville Township to I-81 and continuing on Fisher Avenue to Asher Miner Road in East Hanover Township.

PennDOT advises travelers they may encounter single-lane traffic with flaggers on weekdays after 9:00 a.m. Work is scheduled to be completed by mid-August. This section of Route 934 averages 7,200 vehicles traveled daily. To avoid delays, travelers should allow for additional time in their plans or seek an alternate route.

Column: “Doctors vs. Doctors”
I’m not a doctor but I’ve always admired their Hippocratic Oath: “Primum non nocere,” Latin for, "first, do no harm."

However, like many professional charges, its implementation is deliberated and sometimes hotly debated. An example was recently seen during public hearing testimony on my Senate Bill 3, providing for medical cannabis in the Commonwealth. Doctors on both sides of the issue debated whether cannabis fulfills or is contrary to “first, do no harm.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Working Group on Drug Overdose and Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery final report and recommendations from September 2014, “opioid-related overdoses have become a national epidemic and a major public health crisis.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 110 Americans die every day from a drug overdose.

The National Center for Health Statistics studied drug overdose deaths and reported Pennsylvania’s overdose death toll as 2,342, or the 7th highest rate of drug overdose deaths per capita for 2011. According to the report, “the reasons for the increase in the numbers of people abusing opioids are varied,” and that “some estimates indicate that in 2012, heath care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.”

Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Research and Practice, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, testified at the Senate State Government Committee’s most recent public hearing on SB 3. According to her written testimony, in the JAMA Internal Medicine study they looked at how the availability of medical cannabis (an alternative to prescription narcotics for pain management) affected overdose death rates. They used death certificate data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found that the average yearly rate of opioid painkiller overdose deaths in states with medical marijuana laws was about 25 percent lower than the average rate in states without these laws. That was 1,700 fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths overall in 2010 alone.

We have doctors vs. doctors on this subject: the Pennsylvania Medical Society says more research needs to be done, and that they are comfortable prescribing the norm vs. doctors doing research proving medical cannabis is less harmful, saying the norm is not working – and the norm is killing more patients than it’s helping. These physicians say the longer we wait to pass Senate Bill 3, the more Pennsylvanians die from not receiving the medication they need, or by taking harsh prescriptions that are addictive and detrimental in the long-run.

During the hearing on SB 3, one doctor said he’s hesitant to prescribe medical cannabis to a patient because he doesn’t know the side effects. How can a doctor fear cannabis, but not “Drug A” – which could have a side effect of turning skin blue, causing you to go blind, or even death?

Despite such disagreements, I believe medical cannabis represents another arrow in the quivers of patients and their doctors. All the research I’ve seen – here and across the globe – indicates it’s okay to prescribe cannabis; we know the side effects. We also know medical cannabis overdose has never been a cause of death. None of the research has indicated that recommending cannabis will violate “first, do no harm.” Isn’t that enough?


Contact Information
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