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State representative from Pittsburgh hold forum on legalizing marijuana | TribLIVE.com
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State representative from Pittsburgh hold forum on legalizing marijuana

Megan Guza

U.S. Navy veteran Derrick Clark suffered a traumatic brain injury during his time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he hasn’t had a migraine in three years, he said, thanks not to opioid painkillers, but rather medical marijuana.

He said he doesn’t have nightmares anymore either, and the cannabis has helped his anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well.

“I want you guys to see what PTSD looks like from a veteran’s perspective,” he said.

Clark, other veterans, lawmakers and activists gathered in Homewood on Saturday as part of a cannabis education forum hosted by state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington.

“There is no legitimate reason we shouldn’t have legalized cannabis,” Gainey said.

Leonard Hammonds, a Marine Corps veteran, said the time is right to legalize and decriminalize cannabis. He said his military service left him with metal in his hand and foot, and an eye issue called anterior uveitis that causes vision problems and leaves him sometimes seeing flashes of light.

“They gave me every (medication),” he said. “The only thing that ever worked was CBD.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Mike Flores, a Desert Storm veteran, said he is a conservative Republican but has seen and felt the benefits of CBD. He said he’s not as angry as he used to be. He said hard right conservatives are reluctant to back the idea because it’s something they see as “the other side.”

“We can find common ground with this healing thing,” he said.

The forum came just two days after newly elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced a listening tour to gauge public interest in legalizing recreational marijuana.

He has planned a stop in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“We’re going to every one of those counties because we want to hear from everybody,” said Fetterman, the former mayor of Braddock. “As much as I would like to be up here with a set of pompoms cheerleading what I believe, it’s really about what you all believe.”

He said feedback since his listening tour announcement has been “more than 90 percent positive.” He said even those who aren’t enthusiastic are open to having the conversation.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has introduced a comprehensive legalization bill that would, among other things, expunge the records of those previous charged with marijuana possession, release anyone who is in jail solely for such charges and return licenses to those who lost them because of those charges.

Those things, he said, would apply only if the criminal charge was for an amount of marijuana that was less than or equal to what is legally able to be possessed.

He said he understands the need for Fetterman’s listening tour, but he’s out of patience.

“We think the conversation and debate and discussion has gone on far too long,” Wheatley said. “We think it’s time to act. Our perspective is, do the listening tour … but at the same time, we can start the legislative process.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.