The state Senate passed medical marijuana legislation for the second time in less than a year on Tuesday, and backers said they hope the House will accept the changes and send it to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk later this week.
In recent weeks, getting a bill to Wolf’s desk has come down to hammering out the complicated details of how to strongly regulate a new industry and get it up and running as quickly as possible for people who believe it can help them or their children.
“It’s not often that we make history in this chamber, and I would say we’re making history today,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told colleagues during his floor remarks.
The Senate passed the bill, 42-7, after making minor changes to legislation the House passed last month by a comfortable margin. Every Democrat voted for the bill, as did 23 of 30 Republicans, including the chamber’s entire six-member GOP leadership.
House officials have not, however, given any assurances that the chamber will quickly pass this new version on Wednesday, as backers hoped. The House departs Harrisburg after Wednesday and returns to session on May 2.
Wolf supports the bill, which would make Pennsylvania the 24th state to enact a comprehensive public medical marijuana program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. He urged the House to take quick action on the proposal.
“It is finally time to provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from the legalization of medical marijuana,” Wolf said in a statement. “We should not deny doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy.”
The legislation’s drafters say they expect it would be two years before regulations are written, cannabis growers and retailers are ready to operate and patients can begin buying products.
On the list of 17 qualifying diagnosed conditions are cancer, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and glaucoma. Physicians must be registered by the state to certify that a patient has an eligible condition.
The Senate made the first move on medical marijuana nearly a year ago, overwhelmingly passing legislation that took 10 months to make its way through the House amid some high-level Republican opposition, including by House Speaker Mike Turzai, of Allegheny.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society also opposes it.
The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take medicine as a pill, oil, vapor or liquid but would not be able to grow their own cannabis or legally obtain marijuana in a smokeable form.