Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Seeks Path to Legalization

Medical marijuana has not had an easy time in Pennsylvania. When the Senate passed Senate Bill 3, a bill legalizing medical marijuana, by a vote of 40-7, many thought that the bill would be a slam dunk in the House, but it has stalled in committee.

However after months of politics, protests, and committees, a light can finally be seen at the end of the legislative tunnel. On July 27, 2015, House Majority Leader David Reed spoke with members of the Tribune Review and outlined a tentative road map to passing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. He revealed that a vote could happen as early as August “if we’re ready to go.”

Currently the House plans on crafting its own medical marijuana bill based off of two pieces of legislation: SB 3, which passed the Senate, and HB 1432. However, HB 1432 is a bit more like Schrödinger’s cat than an actual bill.

House Bill 1432 has not been introduced into the legislature, has no specific bill text, and mostly exists in the form of a short summary published on the legislature’s website. This distinction is important to make because otherwise one might be misled to think that HB 1432 is anything more than a list of legislative principals at this point.

The differences between SB 3 and HB 1432 are quite significant. For instance, HB 1432 excludes two debilitating illnesses from the list of qualifying conditions: PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The people most often afflicted with those two illnesses are military veterans.

Politically speaking, excluding veterans from qualifying for medical marijuana is not a popular move. Another point of contention is that HB 1432’s fails to establish a medical marijuana regulatory board. Perhaps the two most controversial parts of HB 1432 are the limited medical marijuana delivery methods and the limited production and distribution.

Under HB 1432 the cultivation, distribution, and sales of marijuana would be up to five entities, creating a state sanctioned monopoly. Smoking or eating medical marijuana would be banned, which could be problematic for ALS patients who use medical marijuana to cough up fluids that might otherwise pool in their lungs.

At this point, however, HB 1432 is still not finalized; and even when it is, the bill will still have to go through the reconciliation process. There is plenty of time for the House bill to change, and for those wanting a say in how it changes, there is an upcoming opportunity at a round table event on August 13 in Ellwood, Pennsylvania. State Sen. Mike Folmer, the sponsor of SB 3, will be in attendance.

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