Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2016
Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marc Levy, Associated Press


HARRISBURG (AP) - The state Senate passed medical marijuana 
legislation for the second time in less than a year on Tuesday, and 
backers said they hope the House will accept the changes and send it 
to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf 's desk later this week.

The issue has won overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers 
after years of advocates, primarily the parents of children who 
suffer daily seizures and have lost their ability to function 
intellectually at their age levels, going door to door in the Capitol.

In recent weeks, getting a bill to Wolf 's desk has come down to 
hammering out the complicated details of how to strongly regulate a 
new industry and get it up and running as quickly as possible for 
people who believe it can help them or their children.

"It's not often that we make history in this chamber, and I would say 
we're making history today," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, 
R-Centre, told colleagues during his floor remarks.

The Senate passed the bill, 42-7, after making minor changes to 
legislation the House passed last month by a comfortable margin. 
Every Democrat voted for the bill, as did 23 of 30 Republicans, 
including the chamber's entire six-member GOP leadership.

House officials have not, however, given any assurances that the 
chamber will quickly pass this new version on Wednesday, as backers 
hoped. The House departs Harrisburg after Wednesday and returns to 
session on May 2.

Wolf supports the bill, which would make Pennsylvania the 24th state 
to enact a comprehensive public medical marijuana program, according 
to the National Conference of State Legislatures. He urged the House 
to take quick action on the proposal.

"It is finally time to provide long overdue medical relief to 
patients and families who could benefit from the legalization of 
medical marijuana," Wolf said in a statement. "We should not deny 
doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from 
seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy."

The legislation's drafters say they expect it would be two years 
before regulations are written, marijuana growers and retailers are 
ready to operate and patients can begin buying products.

On the list of 17 qualifying diagnosed conditions are cancer, 
epilepsy, autism, Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress 
disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and glaucoma. 
Physicians must be registered by the state to certify that a patient 
has an eligible condition.

The Senate made the first move on medical marijuana nearly a year 
ago, overwhelmingly passing legislation that took 10 months to make 
its way through the House amid some high-level Republican opposition, 
including by House Speaker Mike Turzai, of Allegheny.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society also opposes it.

The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians 
and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could 
take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor or liquid form but would not be 
able to legally obtain marijuana they could smoke or grow their own.
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