Pubdate: Fri, 18 Mar 2016
Source: York Dispatch, The (PA)
Copyright: 2016 York Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Greg Gross


It could be years before patients have access to medical marijuana in 
Pennsylvania despite a bill to legalize it clearing the House with 
overwhelming support on Wednesday.

Before officials can start implementing the bill, it first has to 
pass the Senate and be signed into law.

The legislation, Senate Bill 3, is now back in the Senate Rules and 
Executive Nominations Committee and is awaiting a concurrence vote on 
the floor. Since the bill was essentially gutted in the House, where 
at one point more than 220 proposed amendments were attached, 
senators will likely thoroughly vet the alterations.

"It's a huge bill, and we have to read through it," said Steve 
Hoenstine, spokesman for Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware and Montgomery counties.

They need to make sure the bill will help as many people as quickly 
as possible, Hoenstine said.

The Senate is back in session on Monday, but it's doubtful the 
senators would vote on the bill then. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has 
pledged to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

Leach was one of the numerous co-sponsors of Republican Sen. Mike 
Folmer's bill. Folmer represents a northern portion of York County.

The bill easily passed the Senate 40-7 in May and was approved in the 
House by a 149-43 vote.

Implementing: If implementation of similar bills in other states is 
any indication, it could take 2 to 4 years before medical marijuana 
would be legally sold in Pennsylvania.

A network of growers, who have to grow the plants in the state, and 
dispensers would have to be set up, and it's not known how long that 
would take.

"That's one of the things we have to figure out," Hoenstine said.

A medical marijuana bill was signed into law in New York in 2014, but 
the first wave of dispensaries didn't open until earlier this year, 
according to The New York Times.

Maryland also approved medical marijuana in 2014, but officials there 
don't expect dispensaries to open until next year, The Washington 
Post reported.

However, some state were able to get programs up and running much 
sooner. Minnesota enacted its law in May 2014 and its first 
dispensary opened in July 2015.

Pennsylvania's bill would allow people to purchase marijuana from a 
dispensary after they have been certified by a medical practitioner 
to have one of the enumerated conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, 
multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and chronic or intractable pain.

The state Department of Health would oversee the program. The 
department doesn't comment on pending legislation, a spokesman for 
the department said.

Network: Under the proposal, the state would license up to 25 growers 
and processors, and as many as 50 dispensaries, which could each 
operate three locations.

Medical marijuana could mean a cash influx for the state. The House 
Committee on Appropriations fiscal note attached to the bill 
estimates grower and dispenser application fees will net the state $7 
million while the startup cost to implement the program is estimated 
at about $2.7 million.

Medical marijuana, which would be available in pill, oil or liquid 
form, would have a 5 percent tax tacked onto its sale, according to the bill.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 23 states have 
enacted comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs 
since California passed the first in 1996.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom