Although Pennsylvania lawmakers have been sandbagging a restrictive medical marijuana bill for the past several months, mostly in fear that pushing through any measure would lead to someone, somewhere getting stoned, it seems the proposal has been resurrected by the state legislature and is scheduled for a House vote later next month.
"I have heard the House leadership has promised the people desperate for medicine that there will be a vote the week of March 14,” Senator Daylin Leach, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “I believe and assume that the House leadership are men of their word. Unless SB3 passes identically to what the Senate passes, it will have to come back to the Senate. We will evaluate it carefully at that time."
However, according to a report by Penn Live, while Senate Bill 3 could be on track to making it out of political deadlock this session, the proposal has been dissected and amended to the point where it is almost certain to be unleashed an even more uninspiring law than when it was first introduced. Yet, patients are convinced that despite the restrictive nature of the program, it would provide them with a solid foundation for which to expand upon.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of the updated bill is the fact that it is now designed to cater to more patients. A total of 15 conditions have been included in the measure, giving patients suffering from conditions like HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease and glaucoma, the ability to participate in the program.
In fact, the inclusion of chronic pain has the ability to successfully launch the state’s program and prevents them from opening a virtually bankrupt marketplace, like what has happened in Illinois. Statistics show that the majority of patients in states like Arizona and Colorado use medical marijuana for pain conditions – giving Pennsylvania the opportunity to capitalize on tens of thousands of participants rather than only a few hundred.
Unfortunately, all of the medical marijuana purchased from the 50 dispensaries would come in the form of a low-THC strain – no more than 10 percent of the stoner cannabinoid would be permitted. To make the program even more cumbersome, the bill restricts patients from consuming marijuana that has to be smoked. Instead, much like what we’ve seen in New York, patients would be given a number of cannabis options in the form of pills, tinctures and oils. Due to the high cost involved in manufacturing these types of pharmaceutical grade pot creations, patients could spend hundreds, possibly even thousands of dollars per month.
Also similar to the New York program, physicians interested in providing medical marijuana recommendations would be forced to undergo a training program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Even other healthcare professionals working with medical marijuana patients, including nurses and pharmacists, would be required to complete the training course.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a supporter of pot reform, said that legalizing medical marijuana “remains a top priority for 2016.” All that has to happen now is for the state legislature to stop playing games and approve the measure.