HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania House Health and Human Services Committee hosted a hearing today on legislation to authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the first time a legislative body in the commonwealth has held such a hearing. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania joined advocates submitting testimony in favor of House Bill 1393 and urged its passage.

"It's become increasingly clear that marijuana has positive benefits for people suffering from particular ailments, including cancer and HIV-AIDS," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The legislature can help these patients by passing this bill, giving them the relief they need."

HB 1393, introduced by Representative Mark Cohen, would allow registered patients to access marijuana under a doctor's supervision. Similar legislation has passed in 14 states. Ten of those states passed their medical marijuana laws via ballot initiative.

"This is a mainstream issue," Hoover said. "Most Americans believe suffering people should have access to medicine, including marijuana, that will relieve their pain."

A 2005 Gallup poll indicated that nearly eight in ten people nationwide support authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. A 2004 AARP poll showed 72 percent support among people 45 and older, including 79 percent in the Northeast.

Other advocates submitting testimony in favor of the legislation included Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana, the AIDS Law Project, Marijuana Policy Project, the National Lawyers Guild, and Jewish Social Policy Action Network. Hoover's testimony is available here.