Pennsylvania senators on Wednesday approved the state’s proposed medical marijuana act. The vote was 43-7 and the bill now goes to the state’s House of Representatives.
State Senators Daylin Leach, a Democrat, and Republican Mike Folmer introduced the bipartisan bill last November. But after amendments were added by the Law and Justice and Appropriations committees, the legislation is significantly watered down from its original language.
S.B. 1182 was formerly known as the “Governor Raymond Schafer Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.” Sponsors originally named it for the Pennsylvania governor who headed up President Richard Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. After the commission was formed in 1970, Schafer led the two-year study on the potential harm of marijuana use and concluded in a report that marijuana should be decriminalized nationwide.
“[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.” – Marijuana, a Single of Misunderstanding, 1972
Nixon chose to ignore his own commissions recommendations and the report was buried. In another dismissal of the former governor’s effort to help produce reasonable drug laws, the name of the bill is now simply the “Medical Cannabis Act.”
It’s not hard to understand the name change, since the bill in its current form bears little resemblance to the emboldened efforts of Leach and Folmer. After the amended bill was voted out of the Appropriations Committee by a 21-5 margin, marijuana advocates bristled at the new law and voiced their opinion that it was not enough. In an email sent yesterday, MPP’s Director of State Policies, Karen O’Keefe, urged supporters to contact their representatives to voice concerns.
“Before tomorrow’s vote, let your senator know you stand with the 85% of Pennsylvanians who support allowing medical marijuana. Let him or her know that you want the legislature to enact a bill that doesn’t leave behind vast numbers of suffering patients, and that allows patients to administer medicine the way that works best for them.”
In addition to not allowing smoking of marijuana, a loss from a previous amendment, the bill now makes vaporization of marijuana off-limits as well. Senator Folmer reportedly claims that there were worries that people would use vaporization as a “sneaky” way of smoking.
The list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use was also pared down from 40 to 10. Cancer, epilepsy and seizures, ALS, cachexia, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, MS, SCA, PTSD and severe fibromyalgia made the cut, while conditions like HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and migraine headaches are out. Proponents of the change note that conditions can be added beginning on 2015 by petitioning the State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing, which the law would create.
The bill now goes to the state representatives, where passage remains less certain. A well-placed source told Marijuana.com that the votes are there, but the Republican-controlled House doesn’t want to schedule a vote. By dragging their feet, House leadership may be able to run out the clock on this session, requiring that the bill start its journey over with a possible new cast of characters following the November elections.