HARRISBURG - A new push to have Pennsylvania legalize marijuana use for medical reasons focuses heavily on the potential benefit for sick children.

The issue will be in the limelight Tuesday when the Senate Law and Justice Committee holds a hearing on a bill known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.

This measure would allow the use of medical marijuana by patients with a recommendation from an attending physician.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, King of Prussia, a bill cosponsor, has launched a social media campaign called Meet the Kids (#MeetThePAKids) that highlights the cases of children who could benefit from prescribed use of marijuana.

Leach features photos and stories of children with epilepsy and seizure disorders on his website. He said children with these illnesses can benefit from the medicinal qualities of marijuana.

Leach urged Gov. Tom Corbett to meet with some of the families.

The governor opposes the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses, Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said Friday.

However, Corbett has said he's interested in seeing the results of any trials by the federal Food and Drug Administration on the effects of cannabidiol, a non-hallucinogenic compound in cannabis, added Pagni.

The bill's other sponsor, Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48, Lebanon, brings a personal perspective to the matter.

"As a cancer survivor, I believe under the guidance of a medical professional, patients should have every opportunity to combat their illness and have the liberty and ability to use cannabis as a weapon in their arsenal of treatment," said Folmer.

He suggested that medical marijuana can offer an alternative to addictive prescription drugs.

The bill drew support last week from the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses.

"SB 1182 both protects patients from prosecution when seeking the use of medicinal marijuana and protects health care providers who suggest medical marijuana to relieve intractable medical conditions or symptoms," said an association statement.

The senators carefully note their bill is the first to be introduced in the Senate with bipartisan support. But medical marijuana bills have been introduced in previous sessions without seeing much headway.

A House committee held a hearing in 2009 on a Philadelphia Democratic lawmaker's bill to provide for state licensing and inspection of "compassion" centers where marijuana could be used with a doctor's recommendation by patients suffering from HIV, AIDS, cancer and other illnesses.

That hearing drew testimony from supporters who argued that medical marijuana is a way to ease pain and suffering and opponents who voiced concerns the bill would weaken existing drug laws and make a controlled substance more available.

Contact the writer: rswift@timesshamrock.com