Pubdate: Tue, 12 Apr 2016
Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marc Levy, Associated Press


HARRISBURG (AP) - Senate backers said Monday that they hope medical 
marijuana legislation will get to Gov. Tom Wolf 's desk this week and 
start what could be a two-year process of setting up regulations for 
growers, dispensaries and physicians.

A Senate committee approved changes to a bill that passed the House 
last month. Backers said they expect a final Senate vote today, 
followed by a final House vote on Wednesday. The Democratic governor 
supports the bill.

The changes were designed to eliminate potential glitches in how the 
set up and regulation of the industry is supposed to work, Senate 
officials said.

"I want to send something to (Wolf's) desk that will work and get set 
up even sooner," said Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, a chief sponsor of the bill.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a similar version last May.

A House Republican spokesman, however, gave no assurances that the 
chamber would quickly pass the bill.

"If the Senate chooses to send us an amended bill, then we will have 
to review those changes and determine what to do," said Stephen 
Miskin, a spokesman for House Majority Leader David Reed, R-Indiana.

One of the changes made Monday would allow the Department of Health 
to grant a waiver to allow a dispensary to set up within 1,000 feet 
of schools and daycare centers. Without a waiver, dispensaries may 
have had a difficult or impossible time finding a location in some 
cities, particularly Philadelphia, Senate officials say.

The Senate bill also removes a provision from the House bill that 
allowed a grower, process or dispensary to get around the 1,000-foot 
limit if they were located in a tax-free area called a Keystone 
Opportunity Zone.

The bill would allow people to buy marijuana from a dispensary after 
they have been certified by a medical practitioner to have one of 17 
enumerated conditions.

Those conditions include cancer, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson's 
disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple 
sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and chronic or intractable pain.

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. The first plants will be brought in from 
out-of-state but, eventually, every plant must be grown in 
Pennsylvania and tracked from seed to processing.

The state will impose a 5 percent tax on the gross receipts of 
growers and processors, primarily to underwrite the regulation of the 
industry. Money also will go for addiction control, law enforcement 
and aid to medical marijuana patients with financial hardships.

Thirty percent of the fees and taxes collected would go to research 
into the use of medical marijuana to treat medical conditions.

Twenty-three states, Guam and Washington, D.C., have enacted 
comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs since 
California was first in 1996, according to the National Conference of 
State Legislatures.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom