GOP Legislator Crossed State Lines for Medical Marijuana

The checkerboard nature of the map when it comes to cannabis laws in the U.S. creates many medical refugees, including a GOP legislator.

Just over half the states in the union (and the District of Columbia) now have some form of decriminalized cannabis. But for medical marijuana patients living in a state not yet on that list, getting the medicine they need often means crossing state lines in violation of federal law. That’s exactly what one GOP lawmaker did to treat his cancer — and he says he’d do it again.


In 2014, CNN found at least 100 families in Colorado who had essentially “fled” there in order to ensure a regular supply of medical marijuana for a sick family member.

Mike Folmer is a Republican state senator from Pennsylvania. He’s also an admitted law-breaking marijuana refugee — and proud of it.

Folmer is one of the authors of Pennsylvania’s nascent medical-marijuana law, which went into effect earlier this year.

But that law hadn’t been written yet when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012  — and went to another state to acquire medical marijuana to help treat it, bringing the weed back home with him.

Cannabis was outright banned in the state at the time, but Folmer told the New York Daily Record editorial board that the positive results he got using medical cannabis in conjunction with chemotherapy (he’s now “cancer free”) made breaking the law a no-brainer. 

“I believe it helped magnify the effect of chemotherapy in a … whirlwind fashion,” he said. “I mean, my blood work has been immaculate.”

Marijuana also helped the senator keep up an appetite and avoid riskier treatments that he said would have essentially put him on his back for six months. He said he “did not get high” while using medical cannabis, suggesting he either obtained a high-CBD strain or used a microdosing regiment.

[For the record, it’s THC that appears to shrink cancer cells, according to a landmark preclinical study.]

Folmer stopped using cannabis after his condition improved and said he’s still staunchly opposed to legalized recreational cannabis.

He didn’t say which state he went to or who helped him acquire the cannabis in question, though he did say it was obtained in a state where doing so is legal and that the cannabis was tested by a lab.

Bottom line: he needed weed and went and got some. Beyond that, “whose business is it?” as Folmer asked the newspaper.

In disclosing his tale, Folmer becomes one of an untold number of Americans who leave their homes and cross state lines in order to get their hands on legal weed intended for a medical purpose.

The senator’s personal experience almost certainly shaped his worldview before he co-authored Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law. Signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April, the law allows for seriously ill Pennsylvanians with a note from a doctor to obtain cannabis… sometime in 2018.

So what’s a Keystone Stater to do in the meantime? Do as their elected representative did, and find healing by any means necessary — maybe a vacation to California or Colorado.

TELL US, How far have you had to travel to get medical cannabis?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.

2 Comments

  1. Jack Elam

    December 31, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Pa. residents should contact Sen. Folmer about running for Congress with a platform of reforming the federal definition of marijuana from its duplicitous circumlocutory format to a simple and straightforward format that conforms to the Necessary and Proper clause. This reform of that definition de-schedules the cannabis plant in a way that actually upholds our Constitution, and therefore it can be subsequently rescheduled:

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company.

  2. Daniel Di Paolo

    December 30, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I am a long-term diabetic with severe neuropathy, an amputated leg, and kidney failure. I take Percocets to manage my pain because I live in Pennsylvania. In the past I have used marijuana to treat my pain and it allowed me to decrease my Percocet use by two-thirds, which decreases the opiate-induced fogginess I’ve had to deal with for years.

    But since I am housebound and live an hour outside of Philly, I have no reliable connection and must suffer. It is a disgrace. Dispensaries are tentatively scheduled to open in mid-2018, and PA is so bureaucratic I doubt anything will open until at least mid-2019.

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