Medical marijuana could be legal in Pennsylvania as early as next year, thanks to a bill passed by the state Senate in September.
Senators voted 43-7 Sept. 22 to adopt medical weed in the state. The law would cover a dozen severe conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease. Several other conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, were removed when the bill was amended in the Senate.
The legislation now goes to the state House, where supporters say they think it has enough votes to pass. If it does, Pennsylvania could join 23 other states with medical cannabis.
“It helps more than just epilepsy children,” Senator Mike Folmer said. “It helps adults who have epilepsy . . . soldiers with PTSD, cancers, multiple sclerosis, severe fibromyalgia.”
Gov. Tom Corbett has historically opposed medical pot, saying he would veto it even if it would help his toddler grandson. But he changed that position slightly when he endorsed a bill that would have legalized only a non-intoxicating form of weed.
That extract, known as CBD oil, has been very successful in treating young children who suffer from intractable epilepsy. Because it contains little to no THC, it can’t get the kids high.
But that also means it’s less useful in treating many other conditions. THC helps with severe nausea and vomiting, relieves pain, and stimulates appetite in people who need to gain weight. And it’s especially important in conditions such as PTSD where the symptoms are primarily mental.
Under the bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate, patients would have access to regular dried marijuana and some marijuana-infused products, including pot strains that contain THC. Patients would need to get physicians’ recommendations before they could buy the drug for medical use.
“I mean, those people deserve the best treatment available, and why you would want to deny them that treatment is beyond me,” Leach said. “That’s why I hope [Corbett’s] conscious gets the better of him when he decides whether to sign this bill.”
The House could vote on the legislation by the end of the year. If so, Corbett’s signature could come shortly after.
Lawmakers took up the bill after indicating late last year that medical weed was dead on arrival. But sick patients and the parents of epileptic children continued their push until it made it through the Senate.
Support for medicinal cannabis is very strong in Pennsylvania. A poll released in March found that 85 percent of the state’s voters want MMJ.