Pa. House amends DUI law decriminalizing trace amounts of medical marijuana | Weed | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pa. House amends DUI law decriminalizing trace amounts of medical marijuana

Wednesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania state House passed a bill amending the state’s existing DUI law to decriminalize driving while traces of marijuana are still in the system of legal medical-marijuana users.

In Pennsylvania, the current laws and provisions related to driving while under the influence of alcohol or substances, aka DUI, criminalize driving while tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, is still in a driver’s system, even if it has been weeks after ingestion. This currently also applies to those with medical-marijuana cards.

“I think you can ask any veteran or anybody that’s using medical cannabis that if they took a prescription on Monday, [by] Wednesday they’re not high and if they got pulled over, they darn sure shouldn’t be charged for being intoxicated or under the influence of medical marijuana and the last time they took it was Monday,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) on the state House floor on Oct. 21.
The act amended this provision on grounds to decriminalize residual traces of THC left in the system of legal marijuana users. The amendment was introduced by state Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne). It passed 109-93 with unanimous support from Democrats, and 16 Republicans crossing the aisle, including local state Rep. Mike Puskaric (R-Elizabeth).

Moreover, the amended bill states that an individual may not drive under a controlled substance with the exception of “marijuana used lawfully in accordance with the act of April 17, 2016, known as the Medical Marijuana Act.”

Opposition to the bill included Pa. House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and all Allegheny County Republicans with the exception of Puskaric. They include: State Reps. Bob Brooks (R-Murrysville), Valerie Gaydos (R-Aleppo), Natalie Mihalek (R-Upper St. Clair), Lori Mizgorski (R-Shaler), and Jason Ortitay (R-Cecil).

Republican state Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) claimed that this amendment would allow people to, possibly, “get away with murder.” State Rep. Barry Joziwak (R-Berks) said that the state Fraternal Order of Police union asked representatives to oppose the amendment, according to Pennsylvania Capital-Star reporter Stephen Caruso.

However, Gainey argued that “it would make no sense to put [medical marijuana users] in that type of situation when we are giving them some type of fine that says you got to pay this or go to court, be put in the judicial system, the whole nine.”

The entire bill will need a concurrence vote in the state Senate if it is to reach the governor's desk. 

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By Mars Johnson