Recently the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 3 40 – 7 which would have created a medical cannabis licensing and dispensing program, a regulatory Board, and which would have permitted qualifying patients access to medicinal cannabis products such as oils and extracts. While not a perfect bill from a patient perspective it at the very least provided a framework modeled after successful programs in other states.
But, despite public support at 87% according to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, SB 3 has stalled in the PA House. Specifically, the legislation was assigned to the Health Committee chaired by Matt Baker who has made no secret of his open hostility to cannabis reform. Chairman Baker has said repeatedly he will not permit the bill to come up for a vote in his Committee (most likely because he knows it will pass.)
Chairman Baker’s intransience on the issue led another House Representative, Rep. Miccarelli attempted a rarely used procedural maneuver called a “Discharge Motion” that could have resulted in an up and down vote on the House floor. But Rep. Miccarelli himself was outmaneuvered and his Motion was never actually addressed.
But one thing did take place that has patients and activists hopeful despite all of the setbacks – Senate Bill 3 was removed from the Health Committee and placed in the Rules Committee chaired by Majority Leader Dave Reed. Rep. Reed will be convening a working committee today, July 7, at 9:30 am to discuss how to move forward with legislation that will pass the House leadership. Additionally, Rep. Marsico, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce legislation that he believes would move through his chamber. Rep. Marsico’s legislation differs from Senate Bill 3 in many respects, but it may nonetheless provide a framework for negotiations between the House and Senate leadership.
Patients and activists have been on a rollercoaster ever since Sen. Michael Folmer and Sen. Daylin Leach first introduced bipartisan and comprehensive medicinal cannabis legislation in November, 2013. Since that time a statewide army of patients, parents, activists, veterans and even medical professionals have all raised their voices and demanded access to this non-toxic treatment alternative available in 23 other states. The future of a medicinal cannabis program in Pennsylvania now seems to be in the hands of the working committee. Lets hope they hear the voices of millions of Pennsylvanians who support a medicinal cannabis program. And, most importantly, please remember that this is to help critically ill patients. We’ve already seen enough failures to know that a New York or New Jersey model would be a disaster for patients.
Source: Pittsburgh NORML press release