The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday (149-43) that would allow residents suffering from debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The House-amended version of SB 3 will now go back to the Senate for approval.
The Senate approved the original bill 40-7 in May 2015. The bill then stalled in the House for approximately 10 months.
"Today's vote comes as huge relief to countless Pennsylvanians," said Latrisha Bentch of Harrisburg, whose daughter suffers from mesial temporal sclerosis, a condition marked by frequent seizures that could be treated with medical marijuana. She is a founding member of the Campaign for Compassion, a local organization of patients and families advocating for comprehensive medical marijuana legislation.
"This has been a long and difficult journey for many patients and families, and our destination is finally in sight," Bentch said. "We gave House members a lot of grief for not getting this done quickly, but we are grateful for the incredible bipartisan support the bill received during the floor debate and final vote. We commend them for showing that compassion is not a partisan issue."
SB 3 would allow patients with qualifying conditions to use and safely access medical cannabis with their physicians' recommendations. Up to 25 Department of Health-licensed growers and processors would produce medical cannabis, which could be dispensed by up to 50 dispensaries, each of which could have up to three locations. The qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures, autism, sickle cell anemia, and intractable pain if conventional therapies or opiates are contraindicated or ineffective.
"Patients and families throughout Pennsylvania have been waiting for years to see this day," said Becky Dansky, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We applaud the members of the House for passing this important legislation, which will significantly improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of seriously ill Pennsylvanians."
Once the bill receives final approval from the legislature, it will be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has been a staunch supporter of medical marijuana legislation. Pennsylvania would be the 24th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law, in addition to the District of Columbia.
"The Senate and Gov. Wolf have already demonstrated extraordinary leadership on this issue," Dansky said. "We hope they will act quickly to get this bill approved and signed into law."
Source: Marijuana Policy Project press release