As John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, travelled through Muhlenberg’s bubble on Saturday, Apr. 6 his voice may not have been booming in regards to his own beliefs of cannabis. Instead, Muhlenberg was another stop on his ‘listening tour’ — a trip that will wind Fetterman through each county in Pennsylvania to listen to constituents share their thoughts on legalizing cannabis beyond medical boundaries.
Five years ago, stories regarding this were less common. The concept was new, people had fears and hopes of equally wild proportions, naturally. You’ve probably heard the arguments of those certain that cannabis legalization would lead to crime and neighborhoods reeking all hours of the day. Likewise you have probably heard arguments of healing and relaxation for those who wish to use the drug recreationally. You may even be one of the people voicing your opinion on either side of the spectrum.
Right now in Pennsylvania there are certain criteria which a person seeking a medical cannabis ID must fit to be able to legally qualify. A four step approach laid out by the Pennsylvania state government website offers a guide to those seeking medical cannabis. From registration to buying, the plan details registering with the state, being certified by an approved physician to have one of 21 different medical conditions, paying for a medical cannabis ID and purchasing cannabis at one of the state approved dispensaries.
Not included on the website’s list are anxiety and Tourette syndrome, but an article by the Morning Call in Feb. 2019 discusses how the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board voted to recommend the addition of the two conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions. The board did not recommend other ailments such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and Addison’s disease. The boards recommendations are sent to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, who will make the final decision on what conditions can qualify a patient to receive a medical cannabis ID.
Although Pennsylvania is behind New Jersey and Delaware, it would be the third state to allow anxiety patients to acquire medical cannabis according to Leafly.com who claims to be the world’s largest cannabis information resource.
Those are some facts, nothing more than basic information from other reportings or sources which define where Pennsylvania is in today’s ‘grand scheme of things’. A greater lesson can be learned from Fetterman’s tour. He is touring to listen to people; to hear what those he serve thinks. He gains input through comment cards visitors can fill out, allowing constituents to voice their opinions in a town-hall style set up and by asking visitors to raise their hands to show whether they are for, against or undecided.
a different approach of being solely a listener is new, inviting and frankly refreshing
It is impossible to predict what may come of the future regarding this highly debated topic, but Fetterman’s stance is noble and respectable. He doesn’t share his own personal beliefs at the forums, rather he urges citizens to share their opinions rather than seek his. He may have a bias — perhaps the fact that Fetterman’s wife is a state certified medical cannabis customer — yet there is still a willingness to hear the community represents.
The approach Fetterman is taking as a politician, who became popular after running on a basis of understanding what life actually is in forgotten towns and cities in Pennsylvania, is a reminder that progress can still be made and voices can still be heard while policies are caught up in legislative limbo. One step Fetterman acknowledged, at Muhlenberg and at other reported events, is the decriminalization cannabis is becoming a widely accepted viewpoint among those who he listens to.
Sure, cannabis’ pathway to legalization is the issue which led Fetterman to speak on our campus. It is a topic that evokes passion from every person on the spectrum from very supportive to very opposed. However, a different approach of being solely a listener is new, inviting and frankly refreshing. Hopefully this is a standard that Fetterman continues and other politicians begin to practice as well. The conversations helped individuals understand different perspectives while informing those who may be unsure. Being uncertain of a stance is just as acceptable as being for or against a stance. It’s okay to admit that you are not as informed as you would like to be before making a meaningful decision. After all, isn’t this the treatment you want as a constituent?