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Medical marijuana bill moving forward in Pennsylvania Senate

The Medical Cannabis Act -- currently Senate Bill 3 -- is back in the news. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Delaware County Sen. Daylin Leach, represents a renewed attempt to legalize medical marijuana after last year's effort passed overwhelmingly in the Senate but died in the House.  While it unanimously passed out of one committee yesterday, Leach realizes that some House members are likely to have questions and concerns, so additional discussions or possible amendments may be needed.

It's still too early in the process to gauge the chances of the Medical Cannabis Act ultimately passing in both houses of the legislature this year, Governor Wolf has previously expressed his support for such a measure.

"There are sick people this medicine can really be helpful to," Leach told committee members on Tuesday. "It's cruel and heartless to deny people medicine that can help."

Recreational use would still be banned; treatment to be licensed and regulated

The bill currently under consideration would allow access to medical cannabis only for people diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. The bill includes a list of qualifying conditions such as glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, severe fibromyalgia and cancer, with an option for additional conditions to be added, as appropriate, by the Pennsylvania Department of State. To legally possess medical cannabis, the patient would need a medical cannabis access card, which is a photo ID good for two years (unless revoked). There would also be other fees and surcharges.

Most of the rest of the bill is geared toward ensuring that any cannabis products used for medical purposes are carefully limited and defined, and toward regulating the medical cannabis industry. However, it is interesting to note that the bill prohibits discrimination against legal medical cannabis users in housing, schools or employment, with some limitations. It also specifies that legal use of medical cannabis cannot itself be considered evidence of child neglect or endangerment, and can't be held against parents in child custody or parenting time decisions.

Before the bill can move forward in the Senate, it still has to get past another committee. Assuming it does, the full Senate could vote on the bill in the second week of May.

Source: Delaware County Daily Times, "State Senate committee OKs medical marijuana bill," Kristina Scala, April 21, 2015

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