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On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate approved the final version of SB 3, nearly a year after the Senate passed its original version of the bill. The bill introduced by Senators Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia) is widely expected to be signed by Governor Tom Wolf, which will make Pennsylvania the 24th state in the country to adopt a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
The bill underwent a tortured ordeal to get to a floor vote on the House side, particularly from Health Committee Chair Matt Baker (R-Tioga County) who attempted to the kill the bill until a rarely utilized procedural move stripped the bill from his committee. Recently, the bill had several amendment votes prior to making to the floor, which are well covered by the Daily Chronic. The most notable of these was the successful removal of a 10% THC cap, which would have severely limited treatment options for patients in need of THC-rich products, such as pain and cancer patients.
On the passage of the bill Senator Folmer said, “Within 30 days of signing, a safe haven aspect of the bill goes into effect for minors under 18, at 6 months it goes into effect for everybody. He went on to say, "It’s not a perfect bill but it’s a good first step for Pennsylvania. We will have vaporization, whole plant, and no THC limit. But you can’t smoke it...The Department of Health is involved and can advise on expanding the program. This is a workable bill, not a Louisiana or New Jersey bill.”
While SB 3 does not include access to the raw flower form of the medicine for smoking, the bill is not as restrictive compared to New York and Minnesota. Pennsylvania will have up to five times the cultivators and up to seven and half times more dispensing locations compared to the New York law, with up 25 grower licenses and 50 dispensary licenses, who could have three retail locations (the MN program has even fewer locations than NY). The qualifying conditions language is also stronger than New York and Minnesota, with the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder along with 17 other conditions.
Passage of SB 3 could have national implications. The House version of the CARERS Act is current in limbo in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA). Pitts has never shown any support for medical cannabis in the past, but now his constituents would be harmed by federal interference. We urge concerned medical cannabis advocates to take action and call their members of Congress to support the CARERS Act.