Yesterday, a Pennsylvania state Senate committee unanimously passed a bill that would legalize marijuana for specific medical purposes, effectively thwarting the federal prohibition on the same.
Introduced by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) with 27 bipartisan co-sponsors, Senate Bill 3 (SB3) would set up a program to distribute medical marijuana to certain eligible patients, something federal law considers illegal. The bill also contains a reciprocity provision that would allow medical marijuana patients from other states to qualify under the Pennsylvania program.
The bill passed through the Senate State Government Committee with an 8-0 vote on April 21. It must now pass through the House Appropriations Committee before it can receive a full vote in the state House.
SB3 would create a State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing program that would allow the growing and dispensing of medical marijuana by licensed individuals for use by qualifying patients. The board would be able to license up to 65 medical marijuana processors.
Qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy and seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara Ataxia (SCA), posttraumatic stress disorder, severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, and glaucoma.
The bill contains penalties for unlicensed growers, including a civil penalty of up to $15,000 per violation, while providing protections for patients against losing child custody, visitation rights, or being deprived of a lease or employment due to the use of medical marijuana.
As more states take marijuana policy into their own hands, the federal government has become increasingly incapable of enforcing its prohibition. They simply lack the resources to stop the tidal wave. For those concerned about the health care and personal choices of people living in Pennsylvania, this cannot come too soon.
Although this bill draws a legal distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, it still represents an enormous step in the right direction for cannabis rights advocates in the state of Pennsylvania. The top-down federal mandates that have failed for so many decades are being replaced with a more decentralized, compassionate approach that is responsive to the needs of the people.
Activists should embrace any opportunity that they have to make it more difficult for people to be locked in cages for the non-violent non-crime of marijuana possession. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures such as SB3 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!