The idea of a medical marijuana program has been floating through the Pennsylvania lawmakers over the last few years – but it appears that this might be the year it finally makes it to the Governor’s desk.
Proposed Senate Bill 3 was passed through the Senate already – but quite a few things have changed since it hit the hands of lawmakers in the House. They have already made quite a few changes to the original bill, which is a rather long document (roughly 48 pages now) outlining an entire medical marijuana program.
If passed, the program would allow full-strength marijuana to patients with a qualifying condition. The conditions currently on the list include cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, PTSD, chronic pain and with the addition of an amendment by the House, autism is also included.
The bill passed by the Senate had a cap of 10% THC for marijuana medicines, but a narrow vote of 97-91 in the House removed the cap. The House also added an amendment that allows for the dispensing of cannabis flowers, but only to be vaporized not smoked – the Senate bill originally allowed only THC oils, tinctures and capsules.
While the House ended up passing many amendments that will actually be benefiting the patients in the end, there was a couple of representatives on a warpath to gut the bill almost entirely. An attempt to take HIV/AIDS off the list of qualifying conditions was among those ridiculous amendments.
The only provisions that could end up being a problem for patients is the fact that there is a provision that restricts the places of employment offered to medical marijuana patients (though actual wording has not been released yet) as well as an amendment that does not allow patients to back out of contracts while undergoing marijuana treatments.
They have also put in an amendment that will require doctors to register with the Department of Health in order to recommend marijuana. This has been a troublesome policy for some states (for example, New Jersey, which was the first state to implement such a policy).
The bill is expected to reach the final vote in the House with the amended bill by this Wednesday. If it passes then it will be passed back to the Senate for a new vote with the new amendments – which has a fair chance of passing, though some seem to think the new lack of a THC cap could be a deal-breaker for some.
If the bill passes in the House and again in the Senate, it is pretty much guaranteed a signature by Governor Tom Wolf who has already made it clear a medical marijuana program is on his agenda for 2016.