Medical Marijuana Could Be Law in Pennsylvania Very Soon

The state house approved medical marijuana in a vote earlier this week. If the senate approves as well, Gov. Wolf says he'll sign the bill. | OpenRangeStock | OpenRangeStock

After a long battle, medical marijuana is poised to be made into law in Pennsylvania.

The House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this week; the Senate will be able to vote on the bill as early as Monday.

“I applaud the Pennsylvania House for passing legislation to legalize medical marijuana, and I look forward to the Senate sending the bill to my desk,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “We will finally provide the essential help needed by patients suffering from seizures, cancer, and other illnesses.”

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill legalizes marijuana for the following conditions: Cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, autism, sickle cell anemia, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin, or if conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective. Those with terminal illnesses can also qualify for medical pot.

In order to be approved for medical marijuana, a physician involved in the ongoing care of a patient must give a certification during an in-person visit. Doctors must take a four-hour course in order to issue certifications. The state will also issue 25 grower licenses. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will be in charge of issuing medical marijuana patient ID cards and licenses.

The state can license up to 50 dispensaries, which can have three locations each; there could be up to 150 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. These stores will be licensed to sell pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization. Edibles were not legalized. Smoking marijuana will remain illegal.

Daylin Leach, a state senator who represents parts of Delaware and Montgomery counties, was one of the bill’s co-sponsors in the Senate. Leach’s bill passed last year, but the Senate must vote on it again because the house added some amendments.

“Twenty three states have legalized medical cannabis in the United States,” Leach said in a statement. “When the Senate passed Senate Bill 3 last year, national experts agreed that it would be the best medical cannabis protocol in the country. I intend to sit down with Senator Folmer and the advocates to review the House’s changes to our bill while keeping in mind our goal from the beginning of this process: to provide medicine to as many patients as possible, as soon as possible.”

Parents of children with epilepsy were particularly vocal about the legalization of the drug. Dana Ulrich, of Berks County, has been fighting for years to legalize marijuana as a treatment for her daughter’s epilepsy. “We’re at the top and we’re ready to slide down and throw our hands up in the air,” Angela Sharrer, another parent with a daughter with epilepsy, told York’s Fox 43.

Voter approval of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is somewhere near 90 percent. At this week’s hearing, Rep. Mike Vereb of Montgomery County, said he was once a marijuana opponent but changed his opinion after hearing testimony. Some weren’t swayed. The Morning Call reports:

Anecdotal evidence shows marijuana can help the sick, but there’s no hard research to back up those claims, said Rep. Becky Corbin, R-Chester, a chemist. There are no studies that show how the chemical compounds will interact with other medicines and with heat and humidity in the environment. Without those studies, Corbin said she cannot support the bill.

If the senate approves the amended House bill, it will go to Gov. Wolf’s desk. He says he will sign it.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.