Governor Tom Wolf Legalizes Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Wolf announced the news on Sunday along with advocates, members of his administration, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

In a move that’s been in the works for some time, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf  announced yesterday that medical marijuana is now legal in the state. The Pa. House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing medicinal pot back in March, the Senate passed it last week, and Wolf has now made good on his promise to approve it once it reached his desk.

“I am proud to sign this bill that will provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from this treatment,” Wolf said in a statement. “I applaud members of both parties in the House and Senate who have come together to help patients who have run out of medical options and want to thank the thousands of advocates who have fought tirelessly for this cause.”

Wolf certainly characterized yesterday’s news as a victory for the field of medicine and the state of Pennsylvania, but he did qualify his celebratory remarks with some specifications.

“The implementation of the program is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and, when completed, will offer medical marijuana to patients who are under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition,” Wolf’s statement reads. In his relatively brief statement, Wolf used the phrase “serious medical condition[s]” three times, as if trying to stress that the treatment will be reserved for those who are deemed to truly need it. In other words, Pennsylvanians shouldn’t expect to see clusters of people around the state puffing fully legal joints on every street corner — especially since the newly approved forms of cannabis are not the kinds you can smoke (pills, oils, tinctures, etc.).

Additionally, Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy used the term twice in her short quotation about her department’s implementation plans.

Last week, Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo spoke with a medical marijuana advocate about what he sees as the shortcomings of Pennsylvania’s legalization bill. N.A. Poe says that although the bill is a step forward, medical marijuana will only be available to patients suffering from 17 specific conditions — out of about 700 possible uses — and that proportionally very few doctors will be licensed to prescribe it, among other things.

However, Wolf touted the bill not only as progress for the field of medicine and a win for those affected by serious ailments, but also as a political triumph.

“The signing of this bill, which will improve the quality of life for patients and their families throughout Pennsylvania, shows that Harrisburg can come together to address big challenges on behalf of the people of the commonwealth,” Wolf said. “In the coming months, I am looking forward to working together with both parties in the House and Senate to address other initiatives that could benefit Pennsylvanians.”

The new legislation gives the Department of Health the ability to open up to 150 dispensaries throughout Pennsylvania.

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