Pennsylvania Representative Holds Up MMJ Bill
When the Pennsylvania state Senate passed the medical marijuana bill SB 3, patients and supporters were filled with excitement. The bill passed with an overwhelming 40-7 margin, which is remarkable for any bill, much less one that legalizes medical marijuana. Sadly, as the bill moves into the House, the excitement has soured into anger and disappointment as one stubborn lawmaker holds up progress.
Republican Rep. Matt Baker is ardently anti-marijuana and in order for SB 3 to make it to the House floor, it will have to go through the Health Committee, which Baker chairs. While there may be support for medical marijuana in the House, Baker has vowed not to take up the bill in committee, suggesting the bill will die a quiet death like last year.
Baker has argued that there is not enough medical evidence to support the claim that marijuana can be medicine, citing a letter penned by the Pennsylvania Medical Society urging lawmakers to oppose SB 3. The letter references several studies that came to the conclusion that in certain cases medical marijuana can cause epilepsy and glaucoma patients more harm than good and that more study is needed.
“Do we want politicians and legislators to now start determining and voting on medicine,” Baker told WatchDog.Org. “As far as I know, we’ve never done that before. We’ve always left medicine up to the medical professionals.”
One has to wonder how many medical professionals in Pennsylvania would recommend medical marijuana to their patients, but unless Baker backs down, we may never know.
Despite the bleak prospect of Baker cooperating, there are other avenues lawmakers can take to bypass this political roadblock. One of the options legislators can use is something called a discharge petition. A discharge petition pulls a bill out of committee and puts it on the floor of the House for consideration.
Most often it is used as a threat towards committee chairs that refuse to let a bill be heard, which is the scenario medical marijuana advocates are currently dealing with in Pennsylvania. Barring a successful discharge petition, lawmakers can always amend an existing bill with language from SB 3 and pass it that way.
Regardless of what Baker does, legislators have options. For now, however, SB 3 is on hold until the legislature reconvenes in June. If lawmakers can bypass the block in the House, there is a good chance that Pennsylvania could legalize medical marijuana. The Senate wants it, Gov. Tom Wolf wants it, and many members of the House want it.
The only question that now remains is whether the will of the people will be strong enough to overcome the machinations of one individual bent on enforcing his beliefs.