The indecision of Pennsylvania lawmakers is setting the state up for one of the most hole-in-a-sheet medical marijuana programs the United States has ever seen. This has many supporters concerned that while the state is finally on the road to legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, the brass tacks of the latest proposal, which is currently being passed around in the skittish state legislature, could end up disqualifying thousands of patients due to its restrictive nature.
Earlier last week, the Senate State Government Committee put their seal of approval on Senate Bill 3, which is essentially a reintroduction of a 2014 proposal to legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. And while the bill appears to be on its way to the full Senate for consideration, supporters are not entirely sold on the state’s toe-in-water approach to bringing medicinal herb to the Keystone State.
One of the biggest downfalls of this legislation is that it has been whittled away to only include 12 qualified conditions: Cancer, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara ataxia, pos traumatic stress disorder, severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AID, and glaucoma.
Originally, lawmakers were not keen on the idea of allowing patients suffering from HIV/AIDS and glaucoma to have access to cannabis, but supporters argued that almost every medical marijuana program in the nation included these conditions, which gave way to enough persuasion to eventually allow them on the list.
However, the most bizarre aspect of Pennsylvania’s proposal is its regulatory ball-and-chain aimed at maintaining the complete control over the methods used by patients to consume their medicine. Lawmakers are apparently morally opposed to allowing medical marijuana patients to actually ingest their medicine, so amendments were made to essentially ban all forms of delivery, with the exception of the controversial marijuana nebulizer (a contraption that transforms liquid into mist) oils, creams, and tinctures.
The bill prohibits patients from smoking or vaporizing marijuana, as well as eliminates the option of using edibles, which has become the most popular form of consumption for the American medical marijuana community.
Unfortunately, the lawmakers responsible for this legislation, like State Senator Mike Folmer, are entirely too pussy-fisted in their fight to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. While advocates commend Folmer for his work to provide the herb for seriously ill patients, there are many others who will not get the opportunity to take advantage of the program if it becomes law.
Yet, Senator Folmer claims his primary focus on this issue has been to ensure children with seizure disorders have access to non-intoxicating cannabis oil – not in the development of a comprehensive program that makes sense for the entire state.
“My goal for Pennsylvania is to help those with medical challenges – especially children with seizure disorders – to benefit from a medicinal strain of cannabis,” Folmer said in a statement. “Some children have hundreds of seizures a day, making normal childhood development impossible and forcing parents to helplessly watch their children suffer.”
Another element that makes this legislation one of the most anemic proposals in the country is that it does not include a provision to allow for home cultivation. Therefore, patients would be forced to subscribe strictly to the state’s breadline medical marijuana market, or run the risk of going to prison for manufacturing a controlled substance.
The good news is, since this legislation comes with almost every stipulation in the book, lawmakers feel confident that it will actually pass this year. Senator Folmer recently told CBS Philly that he believes the bill will land on the governor’s desk for a signature before the end of summer.
Governor Tom Wolf has indicated that he fully intends to this measure into law. [link: ]