medical marijuana

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill: What’s missing, and how it compares to other states

Under Pennsylvania’s much-touted medical marijuana bill, even if you got a doctor’s prescription for one the conditions the bill covers, you wouldn’t be legally smoking actual marijuana.

Philadelphia pot activist Chris Goldstein said in an interview last week that he “wouldn’t even call it a medical marijuana bill.”

Goldstein explained that the current language doesn’t allow smoking or vaporization of marijuana, so patients would never have dried marijuana flowers in their hands. An amendment was also added last week to allow for a process called “nebulization.” Technically, they would only be allowed processed cannabis products, edible oils, lozenges and other products that come pre-processed.

What this means for patients: No growing marijuana in your house. No having marijuana plants on-hand. And relief could take much longer.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill has been highly-touted as the next progressive thing that Harrisburg is willing to compromise on, especially in order to help children with debilitating seizure disorders. Last week, the bill, AKA Senate BIll 3, passed through the Senate State Government Committee, and the measure will head to the Appropriations Committee by Monday. In theory, the bill could pass through the Senate as early as this Wednesday.

Then it would head to the House, where there’s considerably less support — but still some from Republican leaders. If you remember, we’ve been through this before. The state Senate passed a medical marijuana bill last year, but the House failed to take a vote before the legislative session expired.

But if this thing passes, don’t expect dispensaries to pop up across the state and thousands of people with all sorts of medical conditions to rush to their doctors to receive approval for the green stuff.

Some medical marijuana activists claim the bill being branded by progressives as the next greatest thing is really a ruse, and that it doesn’t cover needed conditions and methods of consumption  — and they say it will take too long to implement to have an effect on patients who need the drugs now.

Goldstein said he feels that “by optimistic standards,” it’d take three years or more to get things off the ground in Pennsylvania because of the time it takes to hammer out regulations.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, the Philly ‘burbs Democrat who’s championed this bill along with Lebanon Republican Mike Folmer, has continuously cited huge public support for it — somewhere to the tune of 88 percent of Pennsylvanians want medical marijuana to happen here, according to a Quinnippiac University Poll.

“You can’t get 88 percent in a poll of almost anything,” Leach said at the time. Goldstein argues those 88 percent of people don’t know what they’re getting with this bill.

“Daylin is out there pushing a bill that doesn’t have actual marijuana,” he said. “At the end of the day, he is pulling the wool over the public’s eyes when it comes to this bill.”

Steve Hoenstine, Leach’s spokesman, told Billy Penn that the Senator would like to see a more inclusive bill that leaves it up to doctors to choose which conditions and methods of consumption are best for their patients. But compromise was needed to get something passed.

“We need to be careful that in trying to get the best bill passed, that we also don’t sabotage our chances of any bill passing,” he said. “So balancing that is important, because helping some people will be better than helping no people.”

Billy Penn took a look at the bill and compared the covered conditions to some other states that have passed medical marijuana policies. Here’s what we found:

Above are the conditions covered by Pennsylvania and four other states as outlined in their bills, meaning that in some states, more than just those conditions are covered because of vague language in the policy.

With regard to conditions covered, it’s important to keep in mind that most states with medical marijuana laws have review boards that can add conditions based on a case-by-case basis — Pennsylvania would have this if the bill is passed — but activists call for lawmakers to completely remove themselves from the process and allow doctors to prescribe marijuana based on when they feel it’s necessary.

Philly activists are still calling for the bill to not only go farther with conditions covered, but also with how the drug is distributed.

“The difference between growing at home and having it regulated is you don’t have to wait years for regulation and implementation,” Goldstein said. “Kids won’t get access if they pass the bill this year. As limited as it is, it will take three to four years to regulate, so these kids that are nine and ten, they will be teenagers before they see something happen. Which is sick.”

×
×

Follow this story

×

Success! You're now subscribed to “Medical cannabis in PA”

You'll get emails from Billy Penn as this story develops. You can unsubscribe in every email.