Pubdate: Mon, 02 Mar 2015
Source: Times Herald, The (Norristown, PA)
Copyright: 2015 The Times Herald
Author: Kristina Scala


Bill to Allow Nonsmoking Use Wins Bipartisan Support

A Delaware County Democratic senator continues the push to legalize 
medical marijuana, but dual-party support might not be enough to push 
along the legislation.

The bill, Senate Bill 3, was presented by Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, of 
Upper Merion, and Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48, of Lebanon, at 
the Senate Government Committee hearing Wednesday. It garnered 
bipartisan support in the Senate for the second time.

"Today's hearing made it clear that we can create a medical cannabis 
protocol in the commonwealth that is among the best in the country," 
Leach said in a prepared statement after the hearing.

He said it's a "life-saving relief" and it "will enable thousands of 
Pennsylvanians to get the medical treatment they need to live 
healthy, happy and productive lives. To deny this medicine to people 
who desperately need it would be cruel and inhumane."

Pennsylvania is one of a few states currently considering comparable 
legislation to legalize cannabis. If passed, the state would join 21 
others, including Washington D.C., that enacted similar laws.

Nearly identical to what was proposed last year in SB 1182, SB 3 
allows patients to use medical marijuana as a treatment option for an 
array of disorders and medical conditions, including children who 
suffer from seizures.

Marijuana dispensaries and growers would be permitted to open shop 
across Pennsylvania, specifically targeting customers looking for 
medical cannabis that's doctor-prescribed.

Last year, Leach said the medical marijuana business would generate 
millions of dollars worth of tax revenue to aid the state's growing deficit.

The 2014 fiscal note states that there's "no adverse fiscal impact" 
on the state's budget for issuing licenses since a $50,000 per 
license fee is mandated for all growers, processors and distributors, 
with a $5,000 yearly renewal fee and application fees for access cards.

Strict regulations and licensing fees would monitor the distribution 
and use of the narcotic.

The bill bans individuals from smoking. Violations - similarly 
treated to alcohol distribution and consumption laws - include: 
illegally of driving under the influence of marijuana; selling to 
minors; and public intoxication. Inappropriately obtaining and using 
the drug will remain unlawful.

Attention was drawn to the positive aspects of medical marijuana's 
impact on young children dealing with seizure disorders.

Republican supporter, Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, said 
residents deserve an expanded option to avoid ailing side effects 
connected to prescribed medication. He said in an email Wednesday 
that children who suffer from seizures typically undergo treatment 
using "a powerful cocktail of chemicals with serious side effects."

McGarrigle and Leach agree that opening the door for medical 
marijuana use would help prevent children undergoing seizure-related 
treatment from losing out on childhood experiences.

"Giving them the option of medical cannabis would give them a new 
option with far fewer side effects and allow them to live a child's 
life of play and learning," McGarrigle said.

Despite a bipartisan effort in the Senate, legalizing marijuana will 
face arguable discussions in the House, where the bill died last 
session after passing 43-7 in the Senate.

There's a chance Gov. Tom Wolf's support might sway House members to 
approve legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania. However, some GOP 
members say that a barrier still exists.

A political stance against expanding medical-related drug use, based 
on a perception that it might open the door for further illegal 
activity, poses a threat in passing legislation once it hits the House.

"Medical cannabis' greatest roadblock is one of perception," 
McGarrigle said. "There is much misinformation about what this bill 
will and will not allow. It's important for everyone to know that 
this bill clearly defines how and when medical cannabis can be used 
and obtained."

State Reps. Jim Cox, R-Berks and Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, plan to 
reintroduce some form of legislation to House members that would 
legalize medical marijuana. The pair introduced it last year, and it 
was co-sponsored by House Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. 
Steve Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, and Maria Donatucci, D-185, 
of Philadelphia.

Cox said discussions with House members revealed that changes are 
forcing them down "a road that would end up having us beating our 
head against the wall." He said several individuals he spoke to 
regarding Folmer's and Leach's bill want components of SB 1182 in the 
most recent legislation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom