A bill to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Pennsylvania will be the subject of a legislative hearing this month, the chairman of a state Senate committee announced Thursday.
Law and Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 28 in the state Capitol on the proposal that was introduced this week. Seven members of the 50-person Senate have signed on as sponsors.
A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said he remains opposed, even if the bill is scaled back to allow only non-intoxicating forms of marijuana.
In its current form, the 34-page bill would permit people with medical needs and a doctor's approval to obtain an identification card that would allow them to acquire marijuana legally. It would create the Medical Cannabis Board and an enforcement arm within the state police.
"There are sick children who have medicine that will make them better, but under current Pennsylvania law they are not allowed to take it," said a leading sponsor, Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery. "They are allowed to take much more toxic, less effective medicine."
Leach said he was confident the bill will pass if it gets Corbett's support, but the governor's spokesman said Thursday his position has not changed.
"The FDA is the arbiter of the safety and efficacy of all drugs, all substances that are ingested," Corbett press secretary Jay Pagni said. "If the FDA were to run a clinical trial, the governor would be interested in the findings."
Twenty states and Washington, D.C., currently have some form of public medical marijuana program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two states have legalized it for nonmedical purposes as well.
This week New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed allowing medical marijuana for patients at 20 hospitals, and New Hampshire's House gave preliminary approval to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.