Pennsylvania could potentially become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 3 in the state House of Representatives this month. Governor Tom Wolf has agreed to sign the bill if it passes through the Senate.
The bill, which was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, will make legal the purchase of marijuana for the treatment of serious medical conditions. With doctor recommendation, patients will be able to acquire a special ID card, which will allow them to purchase strains of cannabis that are deemed appropriate for their diagnoses.
This legislation follows former mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter’s decriminalization of small-scale marijuana possession in 2014. As a result of the decriminalization, those caught in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana are merely fined $25 and given a citation. Anyone caught smoking in public is either fined $100 or required to complete nine hours of community service.
Mayor Jim Kenney also supports this decriminalization as he spearheaded the 2014 bill signed by Nutter. Kenney has even said that he would be “open” to the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana if it were to be legalized in Pennsylvania, according to a Philly.com article.
That being said, possession and consumption of marijuana is still a criminal offense in the state of Pennsylvania and on the federal level. The expected passage of Senate Bill 3, also known as the Medical Marijuana Act, could be the first step toward change in the rest of the state.
However, unlike medical marijuana legislation in some other states, this bill only covers marijuana as legal treatment for what it cites as “serious medical conditions.” Some conditions that satisfy this requirement include cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and autism. According to the bill, though, some of the revenues from taxation on marijuana growers’ sales to dispensaries will be allocated to research into other conditions that may be treated with the substance.
Also limited are the forms in which medical marijuana may be sold and consumed. Approved forms include pills and oils. Smoking is not included in the definition of “medical use” of cannabis.
Only residents of Pennsylvania will be eligible for consideration for a medical marijuana identification card, and health insurers will not be required to provide coverage for the purchase of medical cannabis.
Regardless of its limitations, advocates of marijuana legalization, like the Marijuana Policy Project, consider the expected passage of this bill a victory.
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