House Republicans introduce new, more conservative medical cannabis legislation

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -– House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), Rep. Mike Regan (R-York/Cumberland) and Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) introduced legislation to legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania.
Just a week after what some perceived as a major setback, lawmakers are making another push to legalize medical cannabis. For Representative Marsico it’s a big change of heart. Just a few months ago he only supported a research-based approach. “It’s really hard to say no to the families. It’s hard to say no to the children, to those with serious medical conditions,” said Rep. Marsico.

House Bill 1432 would permit the use of medical cannabis [in the form of a pill, oil or vapor] within the Commonwealth. Based on information learned during the committee’s hearings and statutes enacted in other states.

The legislation would:

• Establish a medical cannabis program to be administered by the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

• Permit a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy to certify that a patient may use medical cannabis if they are suffering from a serious medical condition. A serious medical condition includes cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s disease.

• Authorize the department to issue counterfeit-proof identification cards to patients and caregivers who may then go to a dispensary owned by a medical cannabis organization to obtain medical cannabis.

• Authorize the department to register as many as five medical cannabis organizations. A medical cannabis organization will grow, process, distribute and sell medical cannabis. Each medical cannabis organization may operate no more than four dispensaries, which are to be wholly owned and operated by the medical cannabis organization. The dispensaries must be geographically disbursed throughout the Commonwealth.

• Establish an excise tax to apply to the sale of medical cannabis, to be paid by medical cannabis organizations. The tax may not be passed onto the patient or caregiver.

• Provide that all fees and taxes be deposited into a Medical Cannabis Program Fund established in the State Treasury. The fund will pay the cost of running the program, as well as for medical research related to the safety and use of medical cannabis. It will also provide grants to district attorneys’ offices, municipal police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and pay for drug and alcohol abuse programs within the Commonwealth.

• Establish criminal penalties for diversion of medical cannabis, the falsification of identification cards and the adulteration of medical cannabis.

• Clarify that no patient, caregiver, medical cannabis organization, or practitioner shall be subject to arrest or penalty or denied any right or privilege for lawful use of medical cannabis.

• Allow medical cannabis to be administered through vaporization or in oil or pill form. Smoking and edibles will be prohibited. Strict limits and testing requirements will apply to the amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, which must be disclosed through plain labeling of medical cannabis products. The bill provides a process for the recall of defective or inaccurately labeled medical cannabis.

• Require medical cannabis organizations to adopt and maintain security, tracking, recording-keeping and surveillance systems related to medical cannabis. It also requires real-time inventory tracking from seed-to-sale.

• Charge the department with the responsibility of providing a written report every two years describing the implementation of the act, an assessment of the benefits and risks to patients receiving medical cannabis, and any recommendations for amendments to the law.

“As a mother, I cannot even imagine the anguish of watching one of my children suffer from a debilitating and painful disease such as MS or cancer and being powerless to help them,” Rep. Delozier said. “Imagine a doctor telling a mother that their child could get relief from their pain with medical cannabis, but they can’t because they live in Pennsylvania,” she added.

House Bill 1432 has not yet been assigned to a committee but the representatives are hopeful it is assigned to the Judiciary Committee which they are all a part of. “I’m just hopeful that cooler heads prevail and we focus on being compassionate to those who are sick,” said Regan.

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery Counties) who co-sponsored a more liberal bill that overwhelmingly passed the senate but stalled in the House. He thinks this new legislation does not do enough. “I’m happy for anyone that wants to get the ball rolling, but I think we should do it aggressively. I mean 5 organizations? I heard of 20 dispensaries, we’re a state of almost 13 million people,” he said.