13 April 2016

Here’s the latest via WTAE

Advocates, parents urge House to act on medical marijuana in Pennsylvania

  • HARRISBURG, Pa —Parents of children suffering from debilitating seizures are urging the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to pass legislation in the coming hours to make their state the 24th to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program. (Scroll down for a list of the main points in the marijuana bill.)

Christine Brann said Wednesday that every day without a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania is a risk for people who believe their suffering child may not survive another day.

Brann’s 5-year-old son is diagnosed with Dravet syndrome.

Gov. Tom Wolf supports a bill passed Tuesday by the Senate that made minor changes to legislation approved in the House last month.

It wouldn’t take effect for a month. The legislation’s drafters expect it would take two years to write regulations and get retailers opened, but a safe harbor provision allows parents to legally buy medical marijuana from another state for their child.

(This story will be updated later. Below is a story that was published Tuesday by The Associated Press.)


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.


Highlights of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana legislation

The Senate approved medical marijuana legislation for a second time in two years on Tuesday, and sent the bill back to the House, where a similar version passed in March. The bill would make Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize a comprehensive and public medical marijuana program. Here are major elements of the 80-page bill:


Patients must receive a certification from a physician registered with the Department of Health and have a valid identification card issued by the department that includes their name, address and date of birth. A patient must be diagnosed with one of the following 17 conditions: cancer; HIV; AIDS; ALS; Parkinson’s disease; multiple sclerosis; damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; epilepsy: inflammatory bowel disease; neuropathies; Huntington’s disease; Crohn’s disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; intractable seizures; glaucoma; sickle cell anemia; autism; neuropathic pain; or severe chronic or intractable pain that is untreatable.


Medical marijuana may only be dispensed as a pill, oil, tincture or liquid; in a topical form, such as a gel, cream or ointment; or in a form medically appropriate for vaporization or nebulization. Patients wouldn’t be able to legally obtain marijuana in a form they could smoke.


The state would license up to 25 growers and processors, and as many as 50 dispensaries, which could each operate three locations. Patients would not be allowed to legally grow their own marijuana.


The Department of Health would have to write regulations and monitor the growth, transportation, possession, processing, testing and sale of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. That includes maintaining a database of all patients approved to use it and all caregivers approved to assist in its use. It will develop training courses for medical professionals; approve safety information that dispensaries must provide to patients; create an identification card system for patients and caregivers; and ensure the advertising and marketing of medical marijuana is consistent with federal regulations governing prescription drugs. Caregivers and owners and employees of growers, processors and dispensaries must submit fingerprints for a criminal record background check before getting a permit or identification card.


A grower, processor or dispensary must implement an electronic inventory tracking system that is connected to a Department of Health database that electronically tracks all medical marijuana on a daily basis. The system is supposed to track the medical marijuana from seed through the sale to a dispensary and a patient or caregiver, including information from the identification card presented by the patient or caregiver. It also must include daily sales, prices paid and systems to track the recall of defective medical marijuana and plant waste.


The bill imposes a 5 percent tax on the gross receipts that a grower/processor gets from the sale of medical marijuana to another grower or processor or a dispensary. The sales are exempt from the state sales tax.


The Medical Marijuana Program Fund collects taxes and fees raised from the law. Of the money, 40 percent goes to the Department of Health for its operations and outreach; 30 percent for medical treatment research; 15 percent goes to help medical marijuana patients and caregivers with the costs of background checks, identity cards or purchasing the product; 10 percent to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment; and 5 percent for local law enforcement grants.