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PA: Group Seeks Local Acceptance Of Medical Marijuana

Robert Celt

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An advocacy group for the legalization of medical marijuana has begun making rounds in northeast Pennsylvania, looking to build community awareness and promotion for the decriminalization of marijuana at a municipal level.

Keystone Compassionate Care has been involved with other grassroots advocacy groups for nearly two years, co-founder Joe Kringle, Jr. said. Kringle and fellow co-founder Gerry Feissner are originally from Hazleton, and have been advocating for municipal legalization in the Pocono and Lehigh Valley areas.

Kringle likened their goal to municipal ordinances passed in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that have relaxed minor marijuana possession offenses to citations. If municipalities pass local legislation, Kringle said, state representatives in Harrisburg may follow suit.

Keystone is interested in potentially opening a dispensary in the Pocono area, but awareness is key right now.
"Before any legislation is passed and we get the ball rolling on any business aspect, we're focusing on community outreach," Kringle said. "We want to set a good mark from the get-go."

But during the group's presentation in Stroudsburg Tuesday night, borough council was not receptive to the conversation. The board gave little feedback before moving on to the next item, as there was no amendment to vote on for the subject.

Borough council president Boyd Weiss said such a discussion with the borough would be premature at this time.
"The public hasn't had the chance to become aware of the possibility of something like this happening," Weiss said. "There has to be a lot more information out there. This is a more serious issue."

Mount Pocono mayor Fred Courtright has also met with Keystone Compassionate Care and expressed more interest in the group's stance on medical marijuana. Courtright called it "an issue we need to address" that he believes to be pertinent to veterans after have spoken to returning soldiers with injuries and ailments.

Courtright said legal medical marijuana could play a major role in veterans' pain management during their recovery, additionally improving their quality of family life and negating issues with current pain medication costs.

Courtright added he has heard from people that government should not be "paying to have these people drugged up."

"Well thats what we're doing now," Courtright said. "We're already doing that, and to have options for these people to have fuller and better lives is a no-brainer for me."

Adversely, Weiss noted Stroudsburg's proximity to major interstate highways, which has already caused drug distribution and abuse issues in the area. He said it's probable that medical marijuana would eventually be used for recreational purpose.

Kringle said Keystone is aware of the area's issue with heroin and prescription medication, but countered that medical marijuana is the "total opposite of that."

Courtright believes there are more lenient ways address national drug use issues, but that medical marijuana is a "very distinct subject with sharp corners."

"Maybe it's not everybody but to remove the option entirely seems to be a shortsighted decision by us in the state," Courtirght said.

Keystone would like to host multiple education seminars throughout the northeast region of the state, Kringle said, in an attempt to replace people's stigmas with factual evidence. Mt. Pocono council unanimously approved for the group to use the council meeting space for a public seminar, Courtright said.

The mayor has heard overwhelming approval from the public about the discussion, but said he's interested in also hearing from those against the idea.

Weiss said borough council does not have enough information to make a decision on the matter either way, and said facts are necessary before any action can be taken. He said he had spent time in Denver, Colorado shortly after the legalization of marijuana there. He noted the city, as well as its police, were "absolutely prepared in every way."

"I'm sure that if somebody does take action on it before we do, we'll be scrutinizing how they approach the solution," Weiss said.


News Moderator: Robert Celt 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: PA: Group Seeks Local Acceptance Of Medical Marijuana
Author: Kevin Kunzmann
Contact: Pocono Record
Photo Credit: iStock
Website: Pocono Record
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