Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Pennsylvania Senate

For the second time in less than a year, the Pennsylvania Senate passed medical marijuana legislation Tuesday, and backers hope the House will accept the changes and send it to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk later this week.

The Governor said he will sign the bill on Sunday.

The issue has won overwhelming, bipartisan support in both chambers after years of going door to door in the Capitol. It's being driven by the parents of children who suffer daily seizures and have lost their ability to function intellectually at their age level.

In recent weeks, getting a bill to Wolf's desk has come down to hammering out the complicated details of how to strongly regulate a new industry and get it up and running as quickly as possible for people who believe it can help them, or their child.

"It's not often that we make history in this chamber, and I would say we're making history today," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told colleagues during his floor remarks.

On the list of 17 qualifying diagnosed conditions are cancer, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and glaucoma. Physicians must be registered by the state to certify that a patient has an eligible condition.

Wolf supports the bill, which would make Pennsylvania the 24th state to enact a comprehensive public medical marijuana program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Democrat urged the House to take quick action on the proposal.

"It is finally time to provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from the legalization of medical marijuana," Wolf said in a statement. "We should not deny doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy."

The Senate passed the bill, 42-7, after making minor changes to legislation the House passed last month by a comfortable margin. House officials have not, however, given any assurances that the chamber will quickly pass this new version on Wednesday, as backers hoped. The House departs Harrisburg after Wednesday and returns to session on May 2.

The Senate made the first move on medical marijuana nearly a year ago, overwhelmingly passing legislation that took 10 months to make its way through the House after high-level opposition among top Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Turzai.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society also opposes it.

The legislation's drafters say they expect it will be two years before regulations are written, growers and dispensaries are licensed and patients can begin buying products.

The bill sets standards for tracking plants, licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take the drug in pill, oil, vapor or liquid form, but would not be able to legally obtain marijuana they could smoke or grow their own.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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