After an excruciating year of political sandbag tactics, it seems that Pennsylvania is finally on the verge of legalizing a decent medical marijuana program.
On Monday evening, the House of Representatives gathered for several hours to discuss a number of proposed amendments to Senate Bill 3, a measure intended to give patients suffering from a handful of qualified conditions access to cannabis products. In a vote of 152-38, the House managed to reach an agreement on an updated version of the bill. It is expected to go before the House for a final vote later this week.
The latest draft of Senate Bill 3 would allow patients with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, chronic pain, AIDS and epilepsy to get their hands on non-smokable forms of marijuana. It was previously suggested that the pot products manufactured and sold in Pennsylvania would contain no more than 10 percent THC, but an amendment approved in a vote of 97-91 eliminated this restriction altogether.
This means patients who qualify for participation in the program would have the ability to purchase full strength pot products in the form of pills, oils and vapors. However, while marijuana edibles would not be illegal, the projected 50 dispensaries would not be permitted to sell these types of products. Instead, patients would be given the freedom to produce and consume pot brownies and other THC-infused foods at home.
While last night’s debate showed a great deal of support for Senate Bill 3, not every lawmaker in the room was convinced that the bill would be good for Pennsylvania. Representative Matt Baker, the man originally responsible for preventing the measure from moving in the House, testified that medical marijuana would be a detriment to the entire state. The lawmaker suggested that by creating a legal market for “the most illicit drug in America,” the state would be contributing to a savage drug crisis.
It was originally reported that the House would take a final vote on the bill Tuesday morning, but lawmakers are now expected to spend most of Tuesday’s session hashing out additional amendments before solidifying the deal. A spokesperson for Senator Daylin Leach told the York Daily Record that although the latest draft of Senate Bill 3 has prompted a lot of excitement, the House is “not finished amending the bill.” The final language could be revealed later today, with a final vote to come no earlier than Wednesday morning.
If the bill passes the House, it will need to go before the Senate chamber once more to see if it agrees with the latest version. Of course, the Senate has been largely supportive of the original low-THC bill, voting for its passage last year in a vote of 40-7. However, there is a possibility that the narrow House vote on the amendment lifting the THC cap could cause a snag.
Nevertheless, Governor Tom Wolfe is expected to sign the bill if it lands on his desk in the near future. He said earlier this year that legalizing a medical marijuana program “remains one of his top priorities in 2016.”