‘Historic’ medical marijuana vote expected in coming weeks

Pennsylvania could soon see some traction on a plan to legalize Medical Marijuana. In the coming weeks State Senators say we could witness history as members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee could vote on The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. This would be the first time lawmakers have voted on this issue in any government body.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee held a hearing Tuesday to finalize details in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act or Senate Bill 1182.

One of the sponsors of the bill, State Senator Mike Folmer (R) 48th District fought back tears during the hearing. “There’s a mother right here, I know where she spent her last New Years Eve, she spent it in the hospital because her daughter’s heart stopped beating, from her FDA approved medications,” Senator Folmer shouted. “It’s become a very emotional issue for me, I’m sorry, But we need to pass this now.”

Amendment & Regulation
Members of the Senate Committee held the hearing to get input from a range of people who have experience with medical cannabis. They are working on an amendment to the bill that would create a State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing, a regulation authority under the Department of Health.

Three licenses would be available: Medical Cannabis Grower, Medical Cannabis Processor, and Medical Cannabis Processor.

The goal of the three licenses would allow the board to strictly control the industry. The State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing would also certify independent testing laboratories and require that the medical cannabis be tested and properly labeled before sale or distribution.

The Department of Health would authorize “written certifications” given by medical professionals and submitted by patients through the application process. Patients will receive a medical cannabis Identification Card from the Department of Health to purchase their medication.

Testimony
The bill deals with using the entire plant. Jason Cranford, a Licensed Cultivator and Dispensary Owner in Colorado, testified about why legislation should include the whole plant. “If you only legalize a small amount of the plant, you’re only going to be targeting a small number of medical conditions. If you want to treat several medical conditions, the whole plant is needed,” said Cranford.

David Bender, with addiction agency Compass Mark testified about his support for the plan. “Because others may abuse it, is not a reason to ban its medical use,” said Bender. But he urged lawmakers to look at all of the facts, use caution, and create programs to help with those who abuse it. “Let’s get serious about how we deal with the societal side effects of all mind altering medicines.”

Opposition
The Pennsylvania Medical Society does not support legalization of medical marijuana through legislation. “Our organization is in full support of medical research and believes this is a better route than legislating medical treatment. It’s important to have science behind the practice of medicine. Research is needed to carefully evaluate potential new medications. Building a body of proven evidence through the scientific process is a must to ensure best medical practices are followed and all is known about potential risks. Through careful scientific research, and later FDA approval, new medications can be best discovered, brought to market, and used. Pennsylvania physicians look forward to the pilot results to help improve the care provided to patients who may not have other option,” statement from Bruce A. MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

What’s next?
If the bill makes it out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee it would still need approval in the Senate and House before making it to the governor’s desk.