April 12, 2016
Another volley has been served in the legislative ping-pong between the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives in the push to make medical marijuana legal in the state.
Senate Bill 3 passed the chamber by a vote of 42-7 Tuesday with amendments, meaning the legislation will once again go back to the House for final passage to be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk.
Our #bipartisan cohort urges the #pahouse to take swift action on SB3. pic.twitter.com/f5TfSlRF02— PaSenateDems (@PaSenateDems) April 12, 2016
If the House passes the bill, it will end a sluggish process to make Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize the drug for medical purposes that dates back nearly a year. The House could vote on the bill as early as Wednesday.
Medical marijuana activists are praising the tweaked bill and urging state representatives to vote in favor of it.
“Pennsylvania patients and their families have had to work far too hard and for far too long to gain legal access to medical marijuana,” said Becky Dansky, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release.
“They should not have to wait any longer. We urge the House to concur tomorrow, so we can begin the process of implementing this important program.”
Wolf also applauded the move, calling it "long overdue."
"We should not deny doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy," he said in a statement.
Under the new law, patients would be able to access the drug with the recommendation of their physician if they suffer from a qualifying condition, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures and autism, among others.
The Senate originally passed the legislation in May 2015. However, it went to the House where it nearly tripled in size thanks to amendments and changes, such as barring dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of a school and differing language on whether "license" or "registration" was the appropriate regulation for marijuana growers.
The distance between a dispensary and schools is altered in the Senate's most recent legislation, which keeps the 1,000 feet regulation, unless, it is proven clear that the location is "necessary to provide adequate access to patients."
That revision addresses a previously raised concern from Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who noted such a regulation could make it difficult to place dispensaries in places like Center City Philadelphia.
The change is among what sponsor Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) calls several mostly technical alterations to the bill, according to TribLive.com.
Senate Republicans outlined some of the other tweaks made in the new version, including stricter oversight, ensuring dispensaries are authorized to operate and clarifying the certification of ID cards for patients to try to prevent fraud.
Folmer, according to Rachel McDevitt of Radio PA News Network, was pretty excited the legislation is getting closer to passage.
Before the final vote, Sen. Mike Folmer is giving a Oscar-like speech thanking all the people who made his medical cannabis bill possible— Rachel McDevitt (@RadioPA_Rachel) April 12, 2016
“I’m pleased so many have joined our years-long struggle to make medicinal uses for marijuana a reality,” he said in a release.
House lawmakers will review the bill to make sure the changes are in fact mostly technical and not substantive, TribLIVE reports.