After Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently gave his support to the bi-partisan Medical Marijuana bill (SB 3), sponsored by Senator Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) and Senator Mike Folmer (R., Dauphin), it is looking more likely that Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. Meanwhile, United States Senators Corey Booker (D., New Jersey), Rand Paul (R., Kentucky), Kirsten Gilibrand (D., New York), and Barbara Boxer (D., California) have thrown their weight behind a federal counterpart. Could this finally be the year that Pennsylvania and the United States generally moves beyond the War on Drugs to a more sensible policy?
The legislature has been using the past few months and years to capitalize on the experiences of other states implementing medical marijuana legislation. Senator Leach and staff even traveled to Colorado to learn (and experience?) first-hand that how that state has approached this decision. Of the 23 states that have allowed medical marijuana, all legislation has removed criminal penalties for possession and use of medical marijuana, required patients to have bona fide medical conditions treatable with marijuana, and specified the type and maximum amount a qualified patient may possess.
As we mentioned here in our last post on the subject, it is more likely than not that the medical marijuana bill will address only topical solutions, and not the familiar smokable or vaporized products. Similarly, patient cultivation will be prohibited (as compared to 10 other states, including California and Colorado that allow for it). Pennsylvania’s system will more likely track those states, like New Jersey and Delaware, whose legislation strictly limits access through state-regulated distribution systems.
Peter S. Murphy, an associate at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott wrote recently in the Legal Intelligencer that he suspects that medical marijuana advocates will continue to argue that confining medical marijuana to a specific list of diseases will have the effect of legislating a decision best left to doctors and caregivers. Still, SB 3 provides a personal petition to the Pennsylvania Board of Meidical Marijuana Licensing, allowing some flexibility on a case-by-case basis.
When SB 3 finally gets through the more conservative state house, the bill will likely be on Governor Tom Wolf’s desk in short order.