Pennsylvania Will Become 24th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania will inevitably become the twenty-fourth state in the nation to legalize a comprehensive program that allows patients suffering from with a variety of conditions to use medical marijuana.

On Wednesday, in response to the many calls for action from families of patients dealing with severe and debilitating disorders, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives put their seal of approval on the latest version of Senate Bill 3, sending it to the office of Governor Tom Wolf for a signature. The governor, who has been pushing for the state legislature to approve medical marijuana for the past year, now has 10 days to sign the bill into law. He is expected to act without hesitation.

“I am proud and excited to sign this bill that will provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from this treatment,” Wolf said Wednesday in a statement. “I applaud members of both parties in the House and Senate who have come together to help patients who have run out of medical options and want to thank the thousands of advocates who have fought tirelessly for this cause.” 

It was announced earlier this week that the Senate approved a recently amended House version of the bill, but only after making a few minor adjustments. There was some concern, however, that these minor tweaks in the language could sabotage the chances of the program seeing the light of day in 2016.

In March, almost immediately after the House voted in favor of their idea of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, majority leader Dave Reed told reporters that he couldn’t guarantee SB 3 would receive any additional consideration if the Senate decided to make any changes.

Fortunately, the Senate’s modifications, most of which simply touched on the industry and not patient or plant, were minute enough to earn concurrence in the House.

As long as Governor Wolf does what he has said all along he plans to do if the legislature manages to get the bill to his desk, patients suffering from 17 qualified conditions will soon be able to access full strength cannabis products from 50 dispensaries across the state.

The conditions for which physicians would be allowed to provide recommendations include cancer, HIV/AIDS, 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, autism, neuropathic pain, and severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapies, including prescription opiates, are ineffective. 

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program would prohibit the use of smokable marijuana, instead providing patients with a variety of products in the form of pills, oils, and tinctures. Liquid cannabis would also be sold in dispensaries for those wanting to consume their medicine through a vaporizer. And none of these items would be subject to any tax.

There was no home cultivation provision written into the language of the bill, so patients could still run the risk of getting slapped with criminal charges if caught with cannabis that is not authorized by the state.

Similar to New York, physicians interested in providing patients with medical marijuana recommendations would be forced to undergo a training course before being recognized by the state. This certification would be provided by the State Department of Health, the agency charged with overseeing every aspect of the program from seed to sale.

Marijuana advocates applauded the House on Wednesday for doing the right thing by not making any additional amendments or waiting until the next session to take a vote.

“Legal access to medical marijuana is going to benefit tens of thousands of seriously ill patients in Pennsylvania,” Becky Dansky, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement “For some, it’s the best treatment option. For others, it’s the only treatment option.”

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