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Registered: 03/19/12
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Medical marijuana bill passes committee, heading for full Pa. Senate vote tomorrow
    #749619 - 09/24/14 05:27 PM (2 years, 30 days ago)


A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania passed the Senate's Appropriations Committee Tuesday and is expected to face a vote in the full Senate Wednesday.

The amended version of the bill strikes vaporization of cannabis as a method of treatment delivery, and it also deletes dozens of conditions that would have been approved for use under the original bill.

Prime sponsor Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, said he and sponsor Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, and their staffs drafted the amendment to keep the bill moving amidst apprehension from some of their colleagues.

Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill County, proposed the amendment.

The original bill enabled patients to use a vaporizer to inhale medical marijuana, but Folmer said there was a "fear that it was a sneaky way to smoke it."

All non-smoking methods, including an oil-based orally administered treatment for children with intractable epilepsy, remain in the bill.

The number of conditions for which medical marijuana could be prescribed has been narrowed from about 40 to about a dozen.

Those still on the list include epilepsy, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, severe fibromyalgia, Parkinson's Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Those removed from the list include AIDS, HIV, diabetes, migraine headaches, Tourette Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, and Crohn's Disease.

Below is a full list of which conditions will be included and which will be excluded.

"I think we've crafted a bill that's cautious, not crazy, and will at least be a good foundation to build on," Folmer said. "While there are those advocating who are not happy with some of the changes, the goal is to get it over the finish line."

Folmer said he's disappointed in the downsizing, but there's some room for expansion because the legislation permits a medical marijuana oversight board to authorize new conditions.

The board created under the legislation would include the Secretary of Health, the Commissioner of Professional and Occupational affairs, the Secretary of Public Welfare, two members of the public, two medical doctors, two registered nurses, and a licensed pharmacist.

Under the bill, a state board of medical cannabis licensing would license medical cannabis growers for distribution to processors and dispensers.

Pennsylvania residents with conditions would apply to the Department of Health to be issued medical cannabis access cards. The application would have to include certification from a health care practitioner stating the applicant has one of the qualified medical conditions.

The bill also includes prohibitions, such as driving or operating machinery when having a blood-alcohol level of 10 nanograms of THC or more.

On a federal level, Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg has introduced a bill to legalize only the medical marijuana oil that has shown to be effective for treating children with epilepsy.

Parents of children with the condition, including a few senators who voted for the  bill Tuesday, have been among the most vocal advocates.

Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, proposed an amendment to hold off the bill until the completion of a pilot program authorized by Gov. Tom Corbett. Parents of children who would be involved in that pilot have said there's been no visible substantial progress in launching that program since Corbett announced it several months ago.

Smucker and four other senators -- Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumerland County, Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery County, and Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne County -- were the only supporters of his amendment and the only no votes on the bill, which passed 21-5.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who voted in favor of the bill, said he's expecting the bill to pass the full Senate Wednesday with wide bipartisan support.

If the bill doesn't progress through the legislative process before the fall session ends in November, it must be re-introduced and start all over next term.

A June survey showed support for medical marijuana reached its highest level in the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, 84 percent of voters strongly favor or somewhat favor allowing adults to use medical marijuana for treatment if a doctor recommends it.


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