Fear of a Word: Marijuana Forbidden for Sick 3-Year-Old

— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Garrett Brann, who is about to turn 3 years old, has a form of epilepsy, known as “Dravet’s Syndrome,” which is robbing him of his childhood, a normal life, and much more.

The disease manifests itself primarily in almost constant seizures. Garrett routinely has more than 100 seizures, of varying degrees of intensity, every day.

Garrett’s story is obviously sad, but what makes it truly tragic is that there is a treatment which could very possibly end Garrett’s seizures and allow him to live a normal life. However, because that treatment is a derivative of marijuana, he is not allowed to have it.

More after the jump.
As a result of the frightening and damaging seizures, Garrett’s brain does not rest long enough to develop normally. He, like all children with the Syndrome, suffers from severe cognitive underdevelopment, which only gets worse with time.

He used to be able to feed himself and speak, but has lost those abilities. He can no longer walk consistently and frequently falls. As a result, Garrett’s parents have had to rush him to the emergency room repeatedly for stitches and other medical treatment.

Garrett cannot run, climb steps or jump like a normal 3-year old. He receives occupational, physical and speech therapy, but makes no real progress in any of these areas, as the Syndrome continues to run its often-fatal course.

In an effort to ameliorate the seizures as much as possible, Garrett is currently on a highly toxic and addictive three-drug regimen. These drugs are known to cause liver damage. One of them is not covered by insurance, and costs the Brann family thousands of dollars per year.

The treatment that could help Garrett is known as “Charlotte’s Web,” named after the first girl with the Syndrome to whom it helped.

Charlotte, like Garrett, suffered with near constant seizures. Also like Garrett, nothing seemed to help her until she was given the marijuana-based oil.

The results were miraculous. Her seizure rate went down from hundreds per week to less than one. She is now developing normally and has regained much of what she had lost when she was constantly seizing. Similar results have now been seen in dozens of children with the Syndrome.

The miracle treatment is a tincture or oil that comes from a certain, specific strain of marijuana.

It is important to know that marijuana contains two active compounds:

  • The first is tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC.” This is the part of the marijuana plant that is an intoxicant, and makes people “high.”
  • The other active compound is known as cannabidiol, or “CBD,” which cannot make people “high” at all.

The specific strain of marijuana used to create Charlotte’s Web is packed with CBD and contains almost no THC. So the oil that could help Garrett cannot and will not get Garrett stoned or intoxicated in any way.

If Charlotte’s Web came from a yucca plant or bacteria grown in a laboratory, it would be easily available in every CVS or Rite-Aid in America.

But because it comes from marijuana, the plant that dare not speak its name, no child in Pennsylvania can obtain, possess or use it. Garrett’s parents can fly to Colorado, establish residency, buy the oil and bring it back to Pennsylvania, but if they do they risk arrest and felony prosecution.

This policy is insane. A few drops of a simple oil can potentially save a young boy’s life. The oil is not addictive, not intoxicating, and has no side effects.

There is no rational reason to deny this child the medicine he needs. The only thing that stands between Garrett and a normal life is the fear of the word “marijuana.”

This word has the same effect on many policymakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. as Kryptonite has on Superman: it causes them to lose their ability to think clearly, and forces them to flee in terror.

We must overcome this superstitious way of thinking. It is causing people to suffer needlessly, both with symptoms that could have been eased, and with the side effects of drugs much more toxic and dangerous than Charlotte’s Web could ever be.

Would our policy on medical marijuana make sense to you if Garrett was your son?

See No Warming, Hear No Warming, Speak No Warming


DEP acting head, E. Christopher Abruzzo.
Credit: Pennsylvania DEP

— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Yesterday, I heard the following from E. Christopher Abruzzo, Tom Corbett’s nominee for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary:

I have not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude that there are adverse impacts to human beings or to animals or to plant life at this small level of climate change.

While it is absolutely galling that Corbett would have the audacity to nominate someone for the post of protecting our environment who has not read anything at all about the human impact on climate change, it is not unexpected.

However, I was the only member of the State Senate yesterday to hold Corbett’s nominee accountable, ask hard questions, and vote against his nomination.

As an environmentalist, I believe it is of the highest imperative to protect our natural resources, and am willing to stand up to anti-environment politicians like Corbett to do what is right — and that is what I want to do when I am elected to Congress.

More after the jump.
As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Leach was the only senator to oppose moving Abruzzo’s nomination out of committee for consideration by the full 50-member Senate, expected within the next week.

He said he believed Abruzzo, a longtime prosecutor who later served as a deputy chief of staff to Corbett, had “no obvious experience in environmental protection, and that manifests itself in things like not knowing the science behind climate change.”

“This is not a reflection on you,” said Leach. “There are many positions that you would be qualified for. I do not think this is one of them.”

The Death of Democracy in the US

— article by State Senator Daylin Leach, reprinted from the Philadelphia Jewish Voice , 2006.

Voters no longer choose their politicians; instead, politicians choose their voters when they draw the district lines. I have been leading the fight to take the politics out of redistricting.

Redistricting has become a tool used by legislative leaders to ensure that elections are never competitive. As you know, the constitution requires that political boundaries are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts. In recent years, politicians of both parties have become increasingly blatant about drawing these lines to ensure that there are as few genuinely competitive districts as possible. As a result, 95 percent of us live in districts where our vote essentially does not count because those who drew the lines have already decided which party will win.

More after the jump.


Current Pa. congressional districts by party.

Though gerrymandering has been a growing problem for centuries, new technology has made it increasingly effective. Let me explain how this works. Say there are two adjacent legislative districts, both of which typically divide their vote evenly between the Democratic and Republican parties. When the next redistricting comes around, the party leadership of both parties will make a deal to swap precincts so that instead of two 50-50 districts, the new map will have one district that is 70-30 Republican and the other that is 70-30 Democratic. People still walk to the polls on election day, but everyone knows who will win before the first vote is counted.

Iowa has actually passed similar reform. As a result, four out of five of Iowa’s congressional districts are competitive. That is more competitive districts than there are in Pennsylvania, New York and California combined. That state’s legislative races are similarly competitive.

The powers that be in both parties oppose this bill because it takes power out of their hands. The only way that reform will ever happen is if there is a public outcry demanding it.

Instead of Just Making College Affordable, Make It Free

U.S. Unemployment Rate, 25 years and over:
July 2013 data:

Less than a high school diploma 11.0%
High school graduate, no college 7.6%
Some college or associate degree 6.0%
Bachelor’s degree and higher 3.8%

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

It is becoming increasingly difficult to get a job which pays a decent salary without a college education. Nevertheless, the cost of a college education is increasing exponentially, far outstripping inflation and typical salaries.

About one-third of college students receive subsidized Federal loans. The rate on these loans was fixed in 2007 at 3.4%. Last month, Congress let this rate expire, which caused the rate on new student loans to suddenly double to 6.8%, bringing a college education out of the reach of most students.

A life of privilege should not be the birthright of the privileged few, passed on from generation to generation like the titles of nobility, which we Americans have wisely forsaken (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8).

The outrage expressed by students, their parents, and all those concerned with the future of America’s highly educated workforce was heard in the halls of Congress. Last Friday, President Obama signed a compromise bill to lower interest rates. According to Cecilia Munoz, “Under the new law, nearly 11 million borrowers will see their interest rates decrease on new loans made after July 1, 2013. About 8.8 million undergraduate borrowers will see their rates on new loans drop from 6.80% to 3.86%, and about 1.5 million Graduate Unsubsidized Stafford borrowers will see their rates drop on new loans from 6.80% to 5.41%. Finally, over 1 million Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS borrowers will see their rates on new loans drop from 7.90% to 6.41% — the first reduction in years.” (Since these rates are based on the bond market, The Washington Post notes that “as the economy improves in the coming years, as it is expected to, those interest rates will likely climb and could soon be higher than current rates, unless Congress again acts.”)

Undergraduates may be breathing a sigh of relief as they prepare to go back to school this fall, but still their education will end up more expensive than ever, before putting college out of reach of more and more of America’s youth.

Will this satisfy the many voices that have been clamoring for the government to make education more affordable?

Yet, others are advancing toward a more ambitious objective: making higher education not just affordable, but free.

Three ideas for free tuition follow the jump.
Pay it forward, pay it back

Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) writes about the legislation he and State Representative Brendan F. Boyle (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) are introducing in Harrisburg:

I will be introducing a landmark bill in the Pennsylvania Senate to make college affordable for every Pennsylvanian.

Growing up, my mom and I didn’t have much, and it was only because of programs like Pell Grants that I was able to go to Temple University for college. Since I graduated, tuition has risen astronomically, and state and federal financial assistance hasn’t been able to keep up. If I was finishing high school today, I would not be able to afford to go to Temple without taking on a mountain of debt.

That is why I will be introducing the “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” program to make state, and state-related universities (like Temple) affordable for every student by letting them attend college with no money down and without paying high interest rates.

The way that it works is simple: we will create a fund from which students can draw funds to pay their tuition. After graduating and joining the workforce, students will “Pay Back” into the fund, interest free, through a small percentage — around 4% — of their income.  

The plan will eventually become self-sustaining, but until it does, we will use seed funding from a competitive, temporary tax on natural gas extraction.

Once this bill is signed into law, Pennsylvania will be one of the the nation’s leaders in affordable college education and every student will have the same opportunities that I did.

Boyle adds:

With Pennsylvania’s college graduates shouldering the second highest level of student loan debt in the country, the need to take a hard look at our existing system of funding higher education is urgent. This legislation would initiate the process of conducting a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the Pay It Forward model.

There are currently a handful of states that are considering or have passed similar legislation, including Oregon, which last month passed legislation that Boyle credits as the impetus behind their proposal:

I think the number of states that have expressed interest in this model demonstrates that the traditional way of financing public higher education is fundamentally broken and that there is a strong demand for new ideas. The Oregon bill offers an excellent template for how such a game changing proposal should be approached. Given that this plan would likely require an investment of tens of billions of dollars before becoming solvent, carefully examining the merits and cost of Pay It Forward on an objective and nonpartisan basis will provide insight into whether such a program is feasible in Pennsylvania.

A similar idea is being considered in California, where grantees would commit to paying 5% of their salary for the next 20 years.

This idea is not a Utopian, liberal, “pay what you can” dream. According to the journal Inside Higher Ed, the “concept was thought up, independently, by two Nobel winners in economics, Milton Friedman [noted Libertarian thinker] and James Tobin.”

Posse Scholars

Many promising students do not fulfill their potential, because they do not have the necessary support networks to guide them in their education. For that reason, the Posse Foundation steps into the breech and identifies at-risk youth “with extraordinary academic and leadership potential” while they are still in high school, organizing them into teams (or “posses”) of ten students.

The students in any posse are responsible for each other, support each other in their studies, and help each other stay out of trouble. The Posse Foundation’s university partners have committed to giving full scholarships each year to an entire posse, based on the posse’s total scores, grades, etc.

Knowing that they will earn this scholarship, or fail to do so, as a group, each posse is a team with a common goal to shoot for, and the raw talent to succeed. Since 1989, 4,884 public school student have succeeded as posse scholars. The posse continues to function when in the university of their choice and even beyond, as an invaluable, tried-and-tested support network for these talented youth, who may be the first children in their families to benefit from higher education.

President Obama has seen the value of the Posse Foundation’s work, and accordingly donated all of his $1,400,000 in Nobel Peace Prize money to the Posse Foundation, and 10 other charitable causes:  

The news that Posse will receive a generous gift of $125,000 came via a White House announcement.

“These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need,” said President Obama. “I’m proud to support their work.”

The other nine organizations who will receive donations ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 are: AfriCare, the American Indian College Fund, the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation, the Central Asia Institute, the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, College Summit, Fisher House, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the United Negro College Fund.

“On behalf of the entire Posse Foundation, I thank President Obama for this incredible acknowledgment and support”, says Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial. “For 20 years, Posse has been finding outstanding young people and connecting them to the great education they so deserve. The president’s support is more than financial; it is a message to the country that these young people are not only important, but needed as leaders. We are beyond thrilled.”

Loan Forgiveness

Another way students attend school for free is by committing to public service. Instead of giving back a small percentage of their salary for decades, they devote themselves to service for a shorter period of time. For example, the United States Armed Services will pay for students to attend medical school, if they agree to serve as a medic in the military for an equal number of years. Each year of free medical school equals one year of required service:

When you’re pursuing an advanced health care degree, the last thing on your mind should be how you’re going to pay for it. The U.S. Army can help with one of the most comprehensive scholarships available in the health care field — The F. Edward H├ębert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program. Qualifying students receive full tuition for any accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychology or optometry program, plus a generous monthly stipend of more than $2,000.

In fact, during summer break, the students receive officer’s salary while they get their military training.

Similar programs exist to encourage doctors to work for a few years in under-served rural communities, or for student to train (or engineers to retrain themselves) to teach science, technology, engineering or mathematics in poor urban neighborhoods.

These ideas may put higher education into everyone’s reach, and conversely, put everyone’s talents into the reach of society.

Same Sex Marriage in Montgomery County

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Last week, Montgomery County’s Register of Wills Bruce Hanes announced that he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In today’s Philadelphia Daily News, State Senate Daylin Leach defends Hanes’ action:

These licenses would seem to be issued in contradiction to the Pennsylvania statute that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Mr. Hanes says that he believes that law is unconstitutional and therefore not enforceable.

Some have attacked Mr. Hanes for essentially going rogue. They say that he does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is unconstitutional, it should be a judge who makes that determination, not a county row officer. While these are reasonable points to make, they miss the true issues at stake. A more comprehensive review of relevant legal issues reveals that the actions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, correct.

In fact, Leach officiated over a Montgomery County same-sex marriage on Monday and PoliticsPA wrote a  piece about it entitled Leach Loves Gays So Much He Marries Them:

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to officiate the marriage of a wonderful, loving couple this afternoon in Montgomery County,” Leach said. “Today’s ceremony proves that little by little, we are making strides toward full equality here in Pennsylvania. Each court ruling and each supportive decision made by elected officials puts another crack in the armor of discrimination. Today’s ceremony shows that love can indeed conquer all.”

Leach has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. He introduced the first bill in the state Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010.

It’s Time for Pennsylvania to Pass Marriage Equality Legislation


An LGBT flag in Philadelphia

— by State Senator Daylin Leach

Yesterday, the Supreme Court spoke on the issue of marriage equality. And the sound you heard is the arc of history bending toward justice. The court did two things:

  • They struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which means that gay and lesbian couples who are legally married in any state, are now fully and completely married in the eyes of the federal government — they will now receive all rights and benefits of marriage — and the obscene discrimination that they faced in federal law prior to today is over.
  • The court also dismissed the appeal of a lower court’s decision striking down Proposition 8 in California. This means that the lower court’s ruling stands, and that gay and lesbian couples in California are now legally free to marry the person they love, and 38 million Californians now live under equality.

Continued after the jump.
These two decisions bring our nation into line with our historic values. Discrimination and bigotry are simply not in America’s DNA. The Court’s decision in the DOMA case was particularly poignant and insightful, saying that laws that treat gay and straight people differently have “no legitimate purpose.”

This language, and these decisions make it clear that legal discrimination against gay people is on its way to the ash-heap of history. The legislature and governor of Pennsylvania now have a crucial decision to make. Do we now embrace equality and, as Hubert Humphrey said, “walk into the bright sunshine of human rights?” Or do we join states like Mississippi and Alabama as dead-enders, fighting a sad and futile battle for prejudice and fear?

I know where I stand. And the polls show where the people of Pennsylvania stand. It’s time for our government to do right by all of the people of our great Commonwealth, and pass marriage equality and anti-discrimination legislation this year.

Heard At The Electoral College

Florida Democratic electors sign election-results certificates in the Florida Senate chambersMembers of the electoral college met today in all fifty state capitals and the District of Columbia to officially cast their votes for President and Vice-President of the United State. Here are some highlights from Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.

“What! No write-in votes for me?” — State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA).

“I will quote loosely Vice-President Biden: ‘This is a…. uh… big deal.'” — State Party Chairman Rod Smith (D-FL)

AZ GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey and John Rhodes, sign Electoral College papers casting their vote for Mitt Romney. Both men said they have doubts about President Obama's birth certificate and his right to serveArizona Public Radio reports that the state’s electors cast their ballots for Romney — but not before three of them said questions remain about whether Barack Obama was born in this country. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve seen. I think for somebody in the president’s position to not have produced a document that looks more legitimate, I have a problem with that.” — State Party Chairman Tom Morrissey (R-AZ)

According to the Los Angeles Times:

More than five weeks after election day, almost all the presidential votes have been counted. Here’s what the near-final tally reveals: The election really wasn’t close.”

In the weeks since the election, as states have completed their counts, Obama’s margin has grown steadily. From just over 2 percentage points, it now stands at nearly 4. Rather than worry about the Bush-Kerry precedent, White House aides now brag that Obama seems all but certain to achieve a mark hit by only five others in U.S. history – winning the presidency twice with 51% or more of the popular vote

Defense of PA voter ID law crumbling

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In a document filed ahead of a hearing, Republican officials say “there have been no investigations of prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania” and that fraud would be unlikely to occur if the voter ID law was not in place. This contradicts earlier positions by the state’s governor.  Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach joins Rev. Al Sharpton with his response to the new evidence.

Joe “You Lie!” Wilson Imitator At Congregation Keneseth Israel

Area Jewish Dems Praise Obama’s Support  Of Israel & Jewish Values


Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent.

Last night the Jewish community came out in force to Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park for a serious discussion of politics sponsored by Jewish Americans for Obama.

As expected Pennsylvania State Representative (17th district) and former standup comic Daylin Leach had everyone’s attention with his unique blend of political analysis and satire. However, Daylin’s comedy was overshadowed by the spectacle afforded by a small group of tea party enthusiasts who were in attendance. These right-wing extremists stood up and interrupted speaker after speaker.

Representative Joe Wilson only interrupted President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address with “You lie” only once, but these protesters were comfortable shouting “It is a lie” over a dozen times during the night.

Their random outbursts seemed like a crude caricature of a rabid Tea Party member. The continual refrain of “It is a lie” punctuated the most anodyne statement of fact.

Here is one example: Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro praised Obama’s record of vetoing every anti-Israel United Nations Security Council Resolution since he took office. And the protester was rose and cried out,

“It is a lie.”

Really?!

Tell us what UNSC resolution escaped the attention of this administration? Perhaps he was thinking about UNSC #1405 which required Israel to submit to UN inspections of the Jenin refugee camp as a result of libelous accusation against Israel during Operation Defensive Shield. Actually, this happened under President George W. Bush’s watch in April 2002. That was the last time the US failed to wield its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel.

Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rod McCord quoted Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai who proudly took credit for our state’s new Voter ID law saying

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done.
First pro-life legislation — abortion facility regulations — in 22 years, done.
Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

To which our friendly protester provided comic relief by bellowing out “It is a lie” at the top of his lungs.


At the Keneseth Israel event, Rabbi Lance Sussman(second from right) addresses the crowd. Also at the podium are (from left) State Sen. Daylin Leach, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and county Democratic head Marcel Groen.
Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent

Spiritual leader Rabbi Lance J. Sussman welcomed the standing-room-only crowd of 1,200 members of community packing the sanctuary. He welcomed the community’s commitment to the political process and indicated that Keneseth Israel desired to hold a similar event on behalf of Governor Romney.

Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen served as master of ceremonies, he and all the members of the political panel started their remarks with their Jewish bona fides, detailing their history of commitment to Israel and the Jewish community (even if some of the panelists didn’t have very Jewish names).

Daylin Leach and Josh Shapiro echoed the sentiment that a candidates’ understanding of the unique relationship between Israel and United States was condition sine qua non to get their support. Neither had any doubt that Obama’s feels a love for the State of Israel “in his kishkes.”

Daylin Leach said he was just 20 feet away from Barack Obama at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference when the President declared that “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Rep. Leach also praised Obama for fighting anti-Semitism here and around the world.

Rep. Leach spoke about the importance of the separation of church and state. He warned that it was not so long ago that we had mandatory school prayer, and that if school prayer were to return, it would probably not be the shema. He emphasize the closely divided nature of Supreme Court on this issue. The next President will likely nominate one or more justices who will shape our understanding of law for decades to come. Romney used to hold Chief Justice John Roberts as an example of the type of judge he would nominate for the Supreme Court. Now that Roberts ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, Romney has now chosen Associate Justice Antonin Scalia as his model for a Supreme Court nominee. To understand who Obama is likely to nominate, we can look at the two judges he has nominated so far: Associate Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

United States Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) was on hand. Rep. Schwartz is the only woman and the only Jew in Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation. Her Congressional District covers much of Eastern Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. Thanks to the latest redistricting Congregation Keneseth Israel is now part of her district, and she welcomed her new constituents.


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fields questions at K.I.
Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent.

The highlight of the evening was Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20). She addressed the many hoaxes being circulated attacking Obama’s stand on Israel. She recommended that everyone keep a copy of the campaign’s Myths vs. Facts document and their six-page fact sheet detailing the ironclad relation with Israel that the Obama campaign has nurtured.

The crowd also heard from Obama’s Pennsylvania Jewish Outreach Coordinator Alan Fuchs, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, as well as Obama for America Montgomery County Field Director Dan Siegal. The campaign opened their county headquarters at 115 Yorktown Plaza in Elkins Park, PA. The headquarters was conveniently located at the intersection of RT 611 and Church Rd just across the street from Keneseth Israel.