A bill to let Pennsylvania patients who suffer from a list of ailments obtain marijuana for therapeutic purposes easily passed the state House Wednesday, leaving only final approval by the Senate that overwhelmingly passed a similar bill last year.
The House voted 149-43 for legislation that would set standards for growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take the drug in pill, oil or liquid form, but would not be able to obtain marijuana they could smoke.
Supporters framed it as a way to relieve the suffering of sick people.
"All we're doing is allowing the people of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania who need this to access it legally," said Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna.
Opponents argued the Legislature should not be approving a drug that is illegal under federal law.
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"We're setting the path to bypass the FDA product approval process, whether the drugs are good or bad, we're saying we're willing to circumvent that process, a process that's been in place for over 100 years, because it's what's needed now," said Majority Whip Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster.
Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the House changes were being reviewed.
"We understand the urgency behind continuing the progress," Kocher said.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has urged passage of legalized medical marijuana.
The bill would allow people to purchase marijuana from a dispensary after they have been certified by a medical practitioner to have one of the enumerated conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and chronic or intractable pain.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 23 states have enacted comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs since California passed the first in 1996.