Medical Marijuana Bill Advances in Pennsylvania

Back in May the Pennsylvania Senate passed SB 3, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. However, in the intervening weeks, the bill stalled in the House Health Committee due to the refusal of Rep. Matt Baker, the committee chair, to consider it.

Now, after weeks of fearing that the bill was dead, SB 3 is getting a new lease on life and finally moving out of the Health Committee.

On June 27, 2015, the House Health Committee unanimously voted to move SB 3 to the House rules committee. To the surprise of many, the vote was called by Baker himself, who didn’t offer up much as to why he had a sudden change of opinion.

Many speculate that the move was in response to the filing of a discharge petition by Rep. Nick Miccarelli. Had the discharge petition been allowed to go through, the bill would have been moved to the House floor for a vote.

By moving the bill into a different committee, one could argue that Baker was able to successfully delay a House vote on the measure. Now that it is in the rules committee, it may take until the fall for SB 3 to get to the House floor for debate.

This long delay has riled many medical marijuana supporters.

Latrisha Bentch is a mother whose daughter suffers from severe seizures. Speaking with, Bentch expressed her frustrations about all of the delays surrounding this bill, which she believes could help her sick child.

“It just feels like stalling tactics to me,” Bentch said. “For people who have a sick child, it’s really hard to swallow.”

What makes the controversy surrounding SB 3 even more frustrating for supporters is the wide bipartisan support that the bill has been able to garner. According to a poll conducted by the Floyd Institute’s Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, 87 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing medical marijuana.

So is the House leadership purposefully stalling a vote on SB 3 for nefarious purposes? The answer is probably not.

Although it is easy to assume malfeasance on behalf of the legislature, it is important to remember that marijuana legislation does not happen in a vacuum. The Pennsylvania legislature is still trying to pass a budget for next year and, unfortunately for medical marijuana supporters, financing the state budget will always take precedence.

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