Medical Marijuana | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |

Medical Marijuana

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Medical-marijuana bill passes Pennsylvania state house

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 6:24 PM

The Pennsylvania House has passed medical-marijuana legislation by a vote of 149-43. The fight that has been ongoing since 2009 has cleared its biggest hurdle, and Senate Bill 3 (as the medical-marijuana bill is called) will now move back to the Senate, where it most recently passed 40-7. If it's approved there, Gov. Tom Wolf will surely sign the bill into law, as he has repeatedly pledged his support for medical marijuana.

For the past two days, the bill was debated on the House floor for more than six hours total. The bill's 207 amendments were whittled down to about 30. Chris Goldstein, of Philly NORML, a weed-advocacy organization, says that many of the original amendments were duplicitous. But the amendments that passed included some real wins for medical-marijuana advocates, says Goldstein.
medical_marijuana.jpg

Republican Rep. Russ Diamond, of Lebanon County, proposed removing the 10 percent THC limit from the bill, which passed. THC is the component of the cannabis plant that gets users high, but also has many medical benefits including pain relief and aid in sleeping, and provides help for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress and glaucoma. 

Republican Rep. Ron Marisco, of Dauphin County, was also in favor of axing the THC limit, and included an amendment that said that cannabis plants or dried cannabis flowers could be distributed to patients, which also passed. The amendment prohibits patients from smoking the plants, but allows for vaporization. Autism was also added to the qualifying list of conditions for patients.

Legalization of medical marijuana would be a victory for sick people who've long claimed it could help relieve their suffering. Last July, City Paper wrote about one Pittsburgh mother who had become so fed up with waiting that she is willing to break the law to provide cannabis medication to her sick children. Republican Rep. Mike Regan of York County spoke in support of the bill in front of the house before the vote. "People are wondering if they will get arrested or incarcerated for helping themselves or a loved one trying to get medical marijuana," Regan said. "I think of those who are illegally healing every day."

However, advocates do not consider the current bill to be ideal. In fact, Goldstein called some amendments passed by the House "chilling." Medical-marijuana physicians must now register with the Department of Health and their names, businesses and medical credentials will be publicly available under the state's Right-To-Know Act. Goldstein thinks that the physician's information eventually will be made public when the regulatory process is finalized (a process which could take 2-3 years).

Goldstein says this is similar to what New Jersey did with its medical-marijuana law, and as a result the Garden State has seen low registry of physicians, which led to low patient registration. He says New Jersey has about 6,500 medical-marijuana patients, when its plan envisioned more than 100,000 patients when it was passed in 2010.

According to the bill, Pennsylvania has an initial limit of 25 licensed growers and 50 licensed dispensaries. (Dispensaries are allowed to have up to three locations). To become growers, applicants must have $2 million in capital and provide a $500,000 deposit. For dispensary applicants, they must have $150,000 in capital and pay a $5,000 application fee and a $30,000 annual registration fee.

Democratic Rep. Ed Gainey, of East Liberty, introduced an amendment, which was passed, requiring diversity goals that would promote and ensure the inclusion of minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. And a provision was passed that bars dispensaries, growers and processors from locating within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care center, unless within a Keystone Opportunity Zone, an area of underutilization that receives tax breaks. 

With the bill headed back to the state senate, Goldstein expects a long concurrence process, during which state senators are permitted to add additional amendments, then send it to the House, and back again if necessary. Only after the House and Senate agree on all the language, will the bill see Gov. Tom Wolf's desk. If the bill is not signed into law before the year is out, the process will have to start all over again.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sen. Daylin Leach asks District Attorneys not to prosecute legitimate medical marijuana users

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Since the Pennsylvania House failed to pass medical marijuana legislation this session, state Sen. Daylin Leach is taking another approach.

Leach sent a letter Wednesday to D. Peter Johnson, the president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the state’s 66 other district attorneys asking them not to prosecute anyone in the state who can prove they are using the drug for medicinal purposes.

The drug has been shown to anecdotally help those suffering from a variety of medical conditions, including intractable epilepsy — a condition that affects scores of children and is untreatable with normal seizure medications.

The state Senate passed the bill in September, however, house leader Mike Turzai sent the bill to committee, meaning the process must start over next year.

“In the meantime,” Leach wrote. “parents whose children are suffering from devastating seizure disorders, veterans suffering from PTSD, and cancer patients being ravaged by the side effects of chemotherapy, among others, are facing a choice between three bad options. They must endure unspeakable and unnecessary suffering; or they must leave their families and jobs to move to a more accommodating state; or they must risk arrest and prosecution by procuring medicine and bringing it back to Pennsylvania.

“I ask that you perform an act of compassion. Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania for much longer (it is already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia), I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion to forgo prosecution of any person for possession of cannabis if said person can demonstrate that they are using the cannabis for medical purposes.”

Leach continues: “I am speaking on behalf of the mother who puts her seizure-ridden daughter to bed each night, not knowing if she will still be breathing in the morning. I am speaking on behalf of the suicidal veteran who finds that using cannabis is the only thing that enables him to go on. And I'm speaking on behalf of the cancer patient who is wasting away to nothing — who cannot continue chemotherapy because cannabis is the only thing that helps her endure the treatment’s agonizing side-effects.

“We have seen around the state — and around the country — how local prosecutors have declined to prosecute possession of even non-medical cannabis. I am not asking you to go that far. I am simply asking you to issue a statement letting those who are suffering know that they will not be treated as criminals for trying to save their daughter, or their father, or themselves.”

Here’s the full letter:

SENATOR LEACH ASKS PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT ATTORNEYS FOR COMPASSION ON MEDICAL CANNABIS

October 22, 2014

The Honorable D. Peter Johnson
President, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association

Dear Peter,

As you may have heard, on September 24, 2014, the Pennsylvania Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1182, which would create a protocol for people with certain medical conditions to acquire medical cannabis. While the House of Representatives ran out of time to address the issue, I believe that we have, by a significant margin, the votes needed to pass the bill when the House considers it in the spring. While Governor Corbett has objections, there is, as of the date of this letter, a reasonable chance that we will soon have a governor with a different perspective. Thus, I believe there is an excellent chance that sick people will be legally able to get medicine that helps them by early 2015.

In the meantime, parents whose children are suffering from devastating seizure disorders, veterans suffering from PTSD, and cancer patients being ravaged by the side effects of chemotherapy, among others, are facing a choice between three bad options. They must endure unspeakable and unnecessary suffering; or they must leave their families and jobs to move to a more accommodating state; or they must risk arrest and prosecution by procuring medicine and bringing it back to Pennsylvania.

I ask that you perform an act of compassion. Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania for much longer (it is already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia), I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion to forgo prosecution of any person for possession of cannabis if said person can demonstrate that they are using the cannabis for medical purposes.

In asking this, I am speaking on behalf of the mother who puts her seizure-ridden daughter to bed each night, not knowing if she will still be breathing in the morning. I am speaking on behalf of the suicidal veteran who finds that using cannabis is the only thing that enables him to go on. And I'm speaking on behalf of the cancer patient who is wasting away to nothing—who cannot continue chemotherapy because cannabis is the only thing that helps her endure the treatment’s agonizing side-effects.

I certainly understand the concern that some caught with cannabis may falsely claim that they have a medical need. My reply is that if there is any ambiguity in your mind, prosecute them. It is totally within your discretion. My experience has been that it is fairly easy to tell the difference between desperately ill people and those who just want use cannabis recreationally.

We have seen around the state — and around the country — how local prosecutors have declined to prosecute possession of even non-medical cannabis. I am not asking you to go that far. I am simply asking you to issue a statement letting those who are suffering know that they will not be treated as criminals for trying to save their daughter, or their father, or themselves.

I am very grateful for your consideration of this matter. If you wish to discuss it further, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Very Truly Yours,

Daylin Leach
State Senator
17th District

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pa. House GOP makes sure medical marijuana won't see a vote this session

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Barring some sort of 11th-hour miracle, the state's medical marijuana legislation — passed a few weeks ago by the state senate will not get a vote on the house floor.

The news came in Friday from state Rep. Ed Gainey who attempted to have the language from Senate Bill 1182, which would legalize certain forms of medical marijuana, inserted as an amendment to Senate Bill 405 which deals with generic prescription medications. Gainey decided to make the move when House leadership decided not to call the senate's medical marijuana bill to the floor and instead refer it to a committee for hearings — which will not happen this year.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has stated he is against the bill which would allow medical cannabis to be used by sick patients including children suffering from intractable epilepsy, a condition that can cause a child to have hundreds of seizures every day. In fact, if the House really wanted to hold hearings on the matter they could have done that in July when Gainey introduced a companion bill in the house, which was also sent to committee, never to receive a hearing.

"We had the opportunity to improve the lives of Pennsylvania families suffering from cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and other horrible conditions who would benefit from a medical marijuana prescription. Unfortunately, the Republicans decided that other matters are more important than this critical health care issue, which has overwhelming support from people across Pennsylvania," Gainey said. "It's obvious that Republican leaders know we had the votes to adopt my amendment, but they preferred to avoid the issue to delay its inevitable passage.

"The Senate held two public hearings on the bill and vetted it carefully in their chamber before passing it overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. I'm confident that this is a good piece of legislation that can help very sick people live better lives."

Passage of the senate's medical marijuana bill was truly a bi-partisan effort. While it was always championed by Democrat's like state Sen. Daylin Leach, it found success when conservatives like state Sen. Mike Folmer picked up the gauntlet and began selling the measure across the state. The bill now goes back to square one and will have to be passed again by the senate. But Gainey said he is confident.

"It doesn't look like it's going to happen this year, but I will be back at it again next year and we'll have even more support to ensure that our sick friends, family members and neighbors have access to the best medicine available to relieve their pain and other harsh symptoms."

Gainey's full release appears after the jump.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Listings

Digital Issues

This Week...

Read Past Issues

© 2019 Pittsburgh City Paper

Website powered by Foundation

National Advertising by VMG Advertising