Lawmakers in the full Pennsylvania Senate could vote on a bill to allow some forms of medical marijuana in the state next week.
The bill, Senate Bill 3, would first have to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to consider the bill on Monday, according to the committee’s legislative calendar. If approved by the committee, which is expected, the bill would move to the floor of the full Senate for a vote, which could happen as early as Wednesday.
The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Senators Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) and Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County), currently has 27 co-sponsors in both chambers of the Pennsylvania legislature — 15 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Under the proposal, which was amended by lawmakers in April and could see some additional changes before the bill hits the Senate floor for a vote, Pennsylvania residents would need to be suffering from one of twelve specific qualifying conditions to be considered for medical marijuana.
Those conditions are cancer; epilepsy and seizures; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cachexia/wasting syndrome; Parkinson’s disease; traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-concussion syndrome; multiple sclerosis; spinocerebellara ataxia (SCA); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); severe fibromyalgia; HIV/AIDS; and glaucoma.
The bill establishes a procedure for patients to petition a special review board, which would be appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf, to add additional conditions to the program, but the petition process that could take several years to complete. Patients would not be allowed to petition for additional conditions until July 2017, and the review process itself could take even longer.
Patients and advocates remain concerned that the bill presents unrealistic delivery methods for patients.
The bill, in its current form, bans smoking, vaporization, and the sales of edible marijuana products.
Medical marijuana nebulizers — a delivery method that advocates say doesn’t exist and is impossible because cannabinoids are not water soluble — would be allowed. Other approved methods would include cannabis oil, ointments and tinctures.
Under the bill, home cultivation of marijuana would not be permitted.
Last year, SB 3’s predecessor, Senate Bill 1182, was approved by the Senate on a 43-7 floor vote, but the bill failed to make it to the floor of the House for a vote before the end of the legislative session. House Republicans were reluctant to take action on the bill, partly because then-Governor Tom Corbett, who lost his re-election bid in a landslide, had vowed to veto the legislation.
This time around, the bill is expected to fare better, as some key Republicans in the House have expressed interest in passing the bill, and newly elected Governor Tom Wolf has expressed support for reforming marijuana laws in Pennsylvania, including allowing medical marijuana in the state and decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Medical marijuana has strong support among Pennsylvania residents, with polls consistently showing overwhelming support. A Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released in April found 88% support for medical marijuana among likely Pennsylvania voters. A more conservative poll released in March by Robert Morris University found 67.5% support, an increase from 56% last year. An August 2014 poll recorded 69% support for medical marijuana, and a seperate July 2014 poll found 84% support. Two individual polls from March 2015, one conducted by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics, and the other by Quinnipiac University, found 85% support.