Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2016
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2016 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Karen Langley


Senate Will Consider Legislation Next

HARRISBURG - The House on Wednesday approved allowing the medical use 
of marijuana in Pennsylvania, sending the legislation to the Senate, 
which has approved medical cannabis bills in the past.

The vote was 149-43, with all voting Democrats and more than half of 
Republicans in support.

Advocates and Gov. Tom Wolf applauded the House vote, which followed 
emotional debate from supporters and opponents alike. Julie Michaels, 
who has traveled to the state Capitol from her home in Fayette County 
to advocate for medical marijuana, said she felt a "huge sense of 
relief that we got through the House, which had been our biggest 
stumbling block to this point."

"Hopefully everything will be smooth sailing from here, straight to 
the governor's desk," said Ms. Michaels, whose daughter Sydney, 6, 
has Dravet syndrome, a form of intractable epilepsy.

The Senate approved medical marijuana legislation in 2014 and again 
last year. For the proposal that passed the House on Wednesday to 
reach the governor's desk, the Senate will have to agree with changes 
made by the House. Sen. Mike Folmer, RLebanon, a major proponent of 
medical marijuana in the Senate, said he has to review the House 
amendments but added, "We want to get this done ASAP."

On the House floor, Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Armstrong, said that years ago 
he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma and underwent a lengthy 
surgery. He said he was told that his cancer is hereditary, and he 
told his fellow representatives that he has two daughters. "With the 
odds somewhat likely that they'll deal with this, too, I want them to 
have access to comfort that I did not have," he said, his voice 
sounding strained. "Please let my kids have access to this."

House Health Committee Chairman Matt Baker, RTioga, warned that by 
authorizing medical marijuana, Pennsylvania would bypass the Food and 
Drug Administration approval process and go against the 
recommendations of medical associations. He pointed, for example, to 
opposition from the American Epilepsy Society.

"I cannot remember the last time this august body voted on a bill 
that was in direct violation of federal law," Mr. Baker said.

The legislation that passed the House would establish a system of 
growers and dispensaries to provide marijuana to patients with 
certain conditions - including cancer, epilepsy, HIV and AIDS and 
posttraumatic stress disorder - and who have been certified by a doctor.

Patients would be allowed to use marijuana in the form of a pill or 
oil or through vaporization, among other methods, but they would not 
be allowed to smoke it.

Sales from growers and processors to dispensaries would be taxed at 5 
percent, with the money paying for Department of Health operations 
related to the program, for law enforcement and drug abuse services 
and for research about medical marijuana.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who has urged the General Assembly to pass the 
legislation, said in a statement that he looks forward to the Senate 
sending him the bill.

"We will finally provide the essential help needed by patients 
suffering from seizures, cancer and other illnesses," Mr. Wolf said.
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