This piece first appeared in Cannabis Now.
Cannabis refugees living in the state of Pennsylvania will no longer have uproot their families and cross state lines in order to stay alive. Pennsylvania will become the 24th medical cannabis state pending the signature from Governor Tom Wolf, who has promised to sign Senate Bill 3 into law.
The Pennsylvania House surprisingly passed the bill with a resounding “Yes!” — voting 149-46 in favor of the bill. It’s a victory for those who rely on cannabis oil, but slightly bittersweet for those who hoped to legalize medical cannabis in its smokable form.
“I am proud and excited to sign this bill that will provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from this treatment,” Governor 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.”
Members of the House called it a short debate. Never before has the Pennsylvania House engaged in a serious discussion on medical cannabis with any results.
“When this issue came up a few years ago, there was one person in the Senate Republican caucus who was for this bill,” Majority Leader Jake Corman said. “I knew there was a reason for his passion, and so I listened. And as I listened, I began to change. My heart changed, my mind changed, and I finally got around to the point where I said, ‘Yeah, this is the right thing to do.’”
Without a medical marijuana bill in place, patients living in Pennsylvania have depended on the underground railroad for life-saving cannabis oil. Those who plan on medicating with oils, pills, vaporizers, and ointments have won, however, the smokable form will continue to only be available through the black market.
Senate Bill 3 offers relief to patients with 17 approved illnesses including the usual — cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and autism. Pennsylvania joins other states with limited delivery methods like Minnesota and Georgia.
Senator Daylin Leach, a medical cannabis advocate, hopes to see cannabis collectives in the state of Pennsylvania within 18 months. According to the York Dispatch, the bill allows for 25 growers and processors with 50 assigned cannabis collectives each. Like almost any other state with medical cannabis, collectives would be prohibited from opening within 1,000 feet of schools and daycare centers. Sales would be taxed at 5 percent from growers and processors to collectives. Interested physicians will be able to enroll in a four-hour crash course in medical cannabis. Patients can obtain an ID card issued through the Department of Health.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society publicly lobbied against the bill in vain. Representative Matt Baker also expressed his concern. “There’s serious consequences associated with this monumental piece of legislation,” Baker warned his fellow House members.
Lolly Bentch’s 8-year-old daughter has intractable epilepsy and is among those who needed this bill the most.
“This bill means the difference between a child laying lifeless on a couch, seizing and soiling themselves all day long, and a child taking ballet class and running and jumping and talking and having a life restored,” Ms. Bentch told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “None of us wanted to be volunteer lobbyists and spend the last two and a half years of our life here at the Capitol working on this issue, but I can tell you with absolute conviction that this was our only option.”
The United States is one state away from having medical cannabis programs in half of all U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia.
What do think? Is a medical marijuana program effective without smoke-able cannabis?
Benjamin M. Adams is a contributor for Cannabis Now Magazine, MerryJane.com, Cannabusiness.com, and DirectCannabisNetwork.com. His work has been seen in Culture Magazine, Treating Yourself Magazine, SKUNK Magazine, and several other cannabis-related publications. He studied Art at the University of Utah and has traveled around the world from the open hash markets in Copenhagen to Jamaica. He’s focused on the efficacy of medical marijuana for HIV and other serious illnesses. Ben lives in Southern California. You can follow him on Twitter @benbot11.