Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2016
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2016 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Karen Langley


PA. House Takes Up Medical Marijuana Legislation

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House on Monday took up legislation to 
allow the medical use of marijuana in the state, beginning to prepare 
the bill to send back to the Senate later this week.

By a vote of 152-38, the House approved a comprehensive amendment 
from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, that 
would establish a system of growers and dispensaries to provide 
marijuana to patients with certain conditions who receive 
certification from a doctor. The House considered a number of other 
amendments before adjourning for the night, with plans to continue today.

The plan now is for the House to pass the bill Wednesday, Republican 
spokesman Steve Miskin said.

Speaking on the House floor, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln 
Lemington, said that if doctors can prescribe opioid drugs, patients 
should also have access to marijuana.

"Medical marijuana helps to relieve a lot of this pain, and we need 
to give the family every tool that they need to help them," Mr. 
Gainey said. "For if we don't, we have not done our jobs as leaders."

Supporters of the bill said the real drug problem facing the state 
involves heroin and opiate medications.

"Kids aren't dying from medical marijuana," said Rep. Nick 
Miccarelli, R-Delaware. "They're dying from opiate addiction."

Not everyone is convinced. Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga and chairman of 
the House Health Committee, spoke at length against the proposal. He 
said that bypassing federal drug approval could expose people to 
unsafe or ineffective products.

"I find it amazing that while we recognize we're in the midst of one 
of the worst drug crisis in history, we're now looking to legalize 
the most illicit drug in America and in Pennsylvania, marijuana," he said.

At a rally hours before the House took up the bill, advocates for the 
legislation held up signs featuring marijuana leaves and the names of 
illnesses. Chuck Homan, a 65-year-old retired businessman from York 
County, said he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffers 
from related problems.

"Without marijuana, I would have never gotten off the pills," he 
said. "Cannabis has given me a life that I don't have without it."

The state Senate approved medical marijuana legislation in 2014 and 
again last year.

Gov. Tom Wolf supports medical marijuana, and on Monday his office 
distributed a video in which the governor urged the General Assembly 
to pass the legislation.

"It is time to legalize medical marijuana because we should not deny 
doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from 
seizures and cancer patients affected by chemotherapy," he said.
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