A pair of lawmakers in Pennsylvania want to make it easier –– a lot easier –– for doctors in the state to prescribe medical cannabis to patients.
The proposed, bipartisan bill –– introduced earlier this year by Republican state Sen. Mike Reagan and Democratic state Sen. James Brewster –– would ease restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana program in a bid to bring the treatment to a larger pool of patients.
Reagan and Brewster detailed their proposals in a legislative memo that was circulated in late January. Most notably, the bill would eliminate the list of nearly two dozen qualifying conditions currently necessary for a patient to obtain a medical cannabis prescription, and instead would leave it to the discretion of the physician.
“Our proposal will eliminate the list of qualifying conditions and allow a patient’s doctor – any doctor authorized to prescribe controlled substances – to make that decision,” the memo said.
“The bill will also eliminate the need for renewing a medical marijuana card. Cost is already a hindrance that pushes medical patients to the illicit market, which exposes them to a dangerous product that can be laced with substances such as fentanyl or toxins that can cause further health problems.”
Additionally, the memo said that the measure “will take a look at license parity for grower/processors across the Commonwealth.”
“We are doing this bill to make it more convenient,” Brewster told TribLive. “We have watched it for five years now, and it is time to free it up.”
“Legislators are not doctors, and we should be trying to expand that list when necessary,” he added.
According to TribLive, there “are more than 423,000 active medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, but Brewster said about 700,000 people have given some indication that they are interested in joining the program.”
Their proposal is not the first move by Pennsylvania legislators this year to broaden and improve the state’s medical marijuana program.
Last month, two members of the state House of Representatives detailed their own legislation to allow Pennsylvania farmers to grow medical cannabis.
“It is crucial that Pennsylvanians have accessible and equitable entry into the burgeoning medical cannabis industry. Currently, however, prohibitions on acquiring new permits harm both entrepreneurs and consumers. Farmers and small enterprises are denied the freedom to share in the nearly $2 billion that has been generated by the industry to date. The resulting unfair market conditions deny consumers more affordable options to a proven and recognized medication,” the two lawmakers said in a memo.
“There is a palpable need to change this prevailing imbalance. My legislation will establish a new permit for farmers and other small agricultural ventures to grow and sell medical cannabis to existing grower/processors on a limited basis,” the memo continued. “Enabling small scale cultivation will allow our small farmers to be able to pull their crops together to share in a new license so that they can be part of this large economic gain for Pennsylvania. Moreover, this legislation opens the door for growers new to the industry, women growers, and growers from marginalized communities to take part in this thriving enterprise.”
Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis in 2016 under then-Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
The state’s new governor, Josh Shapiro, who was elected last year and took office in January, has voiced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.
“As Governor, I’ll legalize recreational marijuana — and it’s going to deliver millions of dollars back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said on Twitter last year.