HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 19, 2016) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, making it the 24th state to reject the deplorable federal prohibition on cannabis in practice.
The bill took a long, tough road to final passage. Sen. Michael Folmer (R-Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 3 (SB3) in Jan. 2015. The new law legalizes marijuana for medical use and sets up a regulatory structure for the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis to qualifying patients in the state.
SB3 passed the Senate on May 5, 2015, by a 40-7 vote. It was carried over to the current legislative session, and an amended version passed the House on Mar. 16 by a 149-43 vote. The Senate approved amendments of its own, and sent the legislation back to the House. Last week, the House gave final approval by a 149-46 margin.
The new law empowers regulators to license up to 25 marijuana cultivators and processors, and up to 150 dispensaries in the state. Qualified patients will need to obtain a recommendation from select physicians. Patients with any of the 17 qualifying medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, assorted neurological and gastrointestinal disorders, autism, among others would qualify to use medical marijuana.
According to NORML, the measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils, but it does not permit smoking.
Once SB3 goes into full effect, which some say will take up to 18 months, the Keystone State will join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 other states now allow cannabis for medical use.
All of what’s authorized under the new state law is banned under federal law. But, despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB3 remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the Pennsylvania legislature would remove some of the basis for a vast majority of arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically blocking the ban.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.