By Eric Boehm
The Pennsylvania Independent
HARRISBURG PA – A bipartisan pair of state senators who this year pushed for Pennsylvania’s legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes announced their intent to re-introduce the same bill during 2015. It had been approved by the state Senate in September with a 43-7 vote, but didn’t receive a vote from the House of Representatives before its two-year legislative session closed Nov. 30.
The goal of the legislation is to provide additional options for those suffering from seizure-caused diseases, said state Sens. Mike Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican, and Daylin Leach, a Montgomery County Democrat, in a joint statement.
“Some children suffer hundreds of seizures a day, making normal childhood development impossible and forcing parents to helplessly watch children suffer,” they said. “Prescribed narcotic cocktails of highly addictive and dangerous drugs have little effect on these disorders and often offer only a few weeks or months of pause in the decline of a child’s health.”
The Senate-passed medical marijuana bill would allow people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS, PTSD and other brain and neurological diseases to use medical marijuana. An expected 250,000 Pennsylvanians would sign up for a medical marijuana license, according to an analysis from the Senate Appropriations Committee. A license would cost $100.
Leach and Folmer say 21 other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws regarding medical marijuana, though there is quite a bit of variety from state to state.
Getting the bill through the state Senate a second time should be a relatively easy task. Senate President Joe Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican, announced this week he would co-sponsor the bill. In the House, Republican leaders say they want to hold a series of hearings on the proposal to allow law enforcement and other interest groups to have a say.
There are also concerns about the creation of a new bureaucracy within the state government: the State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing, which the bill would create to license and regulate marijuana growers, processors and dispensers.
If those worries can be addressed, the change in the governor’s office should be the final piece to the legalization puzzle. Outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett was opposed to broad legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. He favored a limited clinical trial run by a handful of hospitals instead.
Governor-elect Tom Wolf takes a different view. “We need to legalize medical marijuana immediately,” Wolf said during the third gubernatorial debate in October.
During the campaign, Wolf suggested the state could examine the possibility of recreational legalization, as has been approved in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. He has also said, however, that Pennsylvania ought to wait and see what happens in those other places where recreational use is already on the books.
Full legalization is probably farther off in the distance. Still, long-suffering advocates for medical marijuana have reason to believe 2015 will be the year Pennsylvania joins a growing number of states with legal cannabis.
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