Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2016
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Mark Scolforo, Associated Press


HARRISBURG (AP) - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives took up a 
proposal Monday to permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes, 
a potential breakthrough for supporters who have worked for several 
years to get legalization through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The debate began with passage of an elaborate amendment, crafted by a 
bipartisan task force, laying out rules for how the program would 
work, including eligibility and regulations. It was approved by a 
152-38 vote, but the measure still requires a final House vote.

The amended bill would limit medical marijuana to those who have been 
certified by a medical practitioner to have one of a list of 
qualifying conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, multiple 
sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and chronic or intractable pain.

Patients could take the drug as pills, oils and liquids but not in 
smokeable form. Dispensaries could not sell edible types of 
marijuana, but patients would be allowed to incorporate it into food 
themselves. The grower-processors would pay a 5 percent tax on gross 
receipts from dispensaries.

The bill envisions 25 growers and 50 dispensaries, and each 
dispensary could have up to three locations. Marijuana could only be 
grown in indoor, secure facilities within the state.

Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, warned that medical marijuana legalization 
would "hurt a lot of people," comparing it to the state's opioid problem.

"I find it amazing that while we recognize we're in the midst of one 
of the worst drug crises in history, we're now looking to legalize 
the most illicit drug in America and Pennsylvania - marijuana," said 
Baker, who as chairman of the Health Committee had helped keep the 
measure bottled up.

But Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Westmoreland, said the goal would be to give 
doctors a tool to help people.

"Look at prescription painkillers, and as they're used," Petrarca 
said. "I believe we have people dying every day nationwide from 
prescription painkillers. No one has overdosed on marijuana."

Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland, said there still are concerns 
about the use of marijuana by people who then drive on highways or 
work with heavy equipment.

If the bill passes it will go back to the Senate, which voted 40-7 
for a similar approach in May. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf supports 
legalized medical marijuana.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states 
have comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. 
Seventeen also permit the use of "low THC, high cannabidiol" products 
under limited conditions. California passed the first legal medical 
marijuana measure in the country 20 years ago.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom