Pa. committee approves medical marijuana bill

A Senate committee has unanimously approved legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee on Friday reported out an amended Senate Bill 1182, also known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Folmer and Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach would allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“The beautiful thing about this bill folks: it was all citizen lobbying, no special interest money,” Folmer said. “This was all volunteers on their time with sick kids. That is what makes this so cool.”

Adults and children who are Pennsylvania residents would be permitted to use medicinal marijuana if they have an access card from the state Department of Health.

Access cards would cost $100 and would be issued after a criminal history background check, validation of a doctor-patient relationship, and confirmation of a qualified medical condition that can be treated with medical cannabis.

Qualified medical conditions include cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, or any condition that produces severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

Patients prescribed medical cannabis would be allowed to use a variety of different delivery methods, including the use of extracted oil, edible products, ointments and vaporization.

Latrisha Bentch, a mother who wants to use medical marijuana to treat her daughter’s seizures, came to the Capitol to witness the vote.

“Today is making Pennsylvania history,” Bentch said. “We’ve never had medical marijuana legislation move out of committee in Pennsylvania, so we have just watched history happen here. It’s very exciting, and I think it’s a very good indication we are moving in the right direction.”

The legislation would also create the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Control Enforcement within the Pennsylvania State Police and the Board of Medical Cannabis under the Department of State to oversee the licensing of farms, processors and distributors.

Governor Tom Corbett has proposed legislation that would allow the research of a marijuana extract and the treatment of severe seizures in children, but he has threatened to veto Senate Bill 1182 if it reaches his desk.

Leach said he believes the full Senate will vote on the bill before the summer recess, and he’s optimistic there will be enough votes to override a veto.

“We hope the governor is on board and engaged,” he said, “but if he is not, we are going to pass it despite him.”

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