Pennsylvania MMJ Program Not Even Close to a Done Deal
There was a lot of excitement coursing through the veins of cyber existence last week after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives put its seal of approval on an updated version of a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The focus of the media frenzy surrounding the passage of Senate Bill 3 centered on a number of amendments to the original language intended to create a more comprehensive program than originally proposed.
There is some evidence, however, that the latest House tweaks may be causing some trouble for the measure now that it is back in front of the Senate.
The Senate was supposed to take up the bill as early as Monday, but CBS Philly reports that this action seems to have been postponed until sometime in April. Although the reasoning behind this chamber’s decision to sandbag the issue is not immediately clear, there is speculation that lawmakers may have requested more time to assemble additional amendments to work into an alternative version.
Unfortunately, any amendment put forth by the Senate would set the bill on course for another round of deliberation with the House – creating a situation where the proposal will either linger in political purgatory or be snuffed out altogether. The Pennsylvania House majority leader said this week that if the Senate does not approve the latest version of the bill, he couldn’t promise it will be discussed again in the House.
Governor Tom Wolf, who has been eager to sign the bill since it was first introduced, said he is worried the bill will be unable to make any progress because of this tug-and-jerk match between the two chambers. “I think the leadership in both houses should have every interest in trying to get it to my desk as quickly as possible,” he said.
If the Senate does approve the current version of the bill later next month, patients suffering from around 15 qualified conditions would be allowed access to various cannabis products to be purchased from any of the projected 50 dispensaries licensed by the state. Although the original language of the measure suggested that all of the marijuana cultivated and sold in Pennsylvania would be limited to 10 percent THC, an amendment made by the House last week eliminated this restriction.
As it stands, patients with “cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, chronic pain, and autism” would be allowed access to full strength cannabis pills, oils and tinctures. There would be no home cultivation or smokable marijuana permitted under this plan.
It is true the Senate gave approval for the original bill last year in a vote of 40 to 7, but that proposal was somewhat different than the one currently fighting to become law. Yet the Senate may surprise us and put their stamp of approval on the bill once again without incident. If that happens, it will go before Governor Wolf for his signature.
“It is long past time to provide this important medical relief to patients and families across the commonwealth,” Wolf said last week in a statement.
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