Pot Crusader N.A. Poe Says Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Law Stinks

And here we thought he'd be lighting up a big one in celebration.

Poe with his 87-year-old grandmother, Lucy, who is holding a bottle of cannabis ointment.

Poe with his 87-year-old grandmother, Lucy, who is holding a bottle of cannabis ointment.

You’d think that a guy who has spent years advocating for marijuana law reform would be positively thrilled by the news that medical marijuana is about to become legal in Pennsylvania, with the state house and senate passing the bill and Governor Tom Wolf expected to sign it. But not the man who calls himself N.A. Poe. Here, the 36-year-old South Philly resident tells us why Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana law leaves a lot to be desired.

This isn’t a victory?

Look, we are becoming the 24th medical marijuana state, and that is a very important step. But the way that Pennsylvania’s bill was designed only makes the medicine available to people who are closer to dire straits. This is not like in California where a tourist can grab a [medical marijuana] card on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. But it will still help people, at least those suffering from the 17 designated conditions.

So, unlike how it is in some medical marijuana states, this doesn’t mean that a healthy guy like me is going to be able take part.

The doctors can’t just write you a prescription. There is a physician registry. The doctor has to pay a fee and go to classes. Most physicians don’t want their practice turned into a marijuana practice. There are 20,000 doctors in New Jersey and only 650 registered to prescribe marijuana.

Anyone who thinks that you’ll be able to go to a doctor and get a recommendation, that’s not going to happen. People are going to have a hard time getting in.

But what’s wrong with that? It’s a medical marijuana law, not the legalization of marijuana.

Cannabis has over 700 uses and they are limiting it to 17. I applied [cannabis] cream to my grandmother and gave her [cannabis] candy for her rheumatoid arthritis. She is prescribed a multitude of opiates for pain but can’t get cannabis.

They’re saying that it will help people, but bottom line, you can’t grow or smoke cannabis with this bill. If you are a vet with PTSD and you find a strain that helps you, why shouldn’t you be able to get your hands on those particular seeds and grow a small amount within your home, so that you can get treated medicinally without paying?

Wait, you can’t smoke it?

Nope. Pills. Oils. Vaporization. Nebulizer. But you can’t smoke it.

You mentioned the idea of symptom-specific strains. Is there much research on that?

Well, I was in D.C. a few weeks ago at a rally to reschedule cannabis, which is currently a schedule one drug, meaning no medicinal value. Hilarious that 24 states directly contradict that. If we can reschedule or deschedule, then it would open up studies by the feds and we can talk about cures instead of just treatment.

But yes, my friend’s daughter has a rare form of epilepsy, and certain strains control them. We could have major medical breakthroughs. But the pharmaceutical lobby is so deeply in our politicians’ pockets.

So how did we wind up with such a restrictive law?

This is all about corporate control. Look at the number for what it would take to get into the state’s new program. You’re looking at about $2 million in business capital, $500,000 in the bank, $200,000 for the initial permit, and then $10,000 each time you want to renew.

So you will have millionaires with limited knowledge of cannabis selling medicine to really sick people. The regulation is set up against the patient and in favor of people who will profiteer off sick people. That’s alarming.

What are you going to do about it?

I am going to set up a patient alliance in Philadelphia, from North Philly to South Philly to West Philly to Center City. Start having patient meet-ups. We’re going to organize these people, almost as a union, so that we can stand up together and demand that these people have access to medicine.

We’d like to meet with Mayor Kenney, because although marijuana has been decriminalized, paraphernalia is still illegal. There’s no reason for marijuana paraphernalia to be illegal if marijuana is legal. And then also, this state program will take at least two years to develop, so we want to get rid of the fine altogether in Philadelphia, which will really create a safe haven for patients here.

The battle has essentially just begun.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.