On Wednesday evening, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to legalize medical marijuana, all but ensuring that Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to do so.
The bill, which originated in the Senate, was amended by the House earlier this week, and the final version was passed by a vote of 149-43. The bill will now be sent back to the Senate to approve the House’s amendments, but leaders in the Senate believe it will easily pass. If this happens, Governor Tom Wolf, who has strongly supported medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, is expected to sign the bill.
The proposed law will allow people suffering from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, intractable seizures, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other medical conditions to obtain an identification card which will give them access to marijuana in pill, oil, or ointment form at dispensaries throughout the state. Smokeable forms of marijuana will not be legal.
Officials believe it could be more than a year before before the program is up and running, and the bill mandates that an advisory board be established within the Department of Health. Once that happens, dispensaries and those who grow and process medical marijuana will have to register with the Department of Health and pay a number of fees, including an initial $200,000 registration fee for growers. Doctors prescribing medical marijuana will have to register as practitioners, and patients will have to renew their medical cards annually.
The bill received wide bipartisan support, with representatives noting that the drug is a safer and less addictive alternative to the opioids that many patients are currently prescribed to treat their illnesses. Members of the House and Governor Wolf praised advocates of medical marijuana, many of whom are parents of children who are chronically ill or who suffered from seizures that diminished or completely disappeared with use of the drug, for their efforts in helping to bring about this change.
“I applaud the Pennsylvania House for passing legislation to legalize medical marijuana, and I look forward to the Senate sending the bill to my desk. We will finally provide the essential help needed by patients suffering from seizures, cancer, and other illnesses,” Wolf said.
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