State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Medical marijuana plan's fleeting afterglow

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 18, 2016 9:47 PM

Supporters of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana bill signed into law over the weekend touted the bipartisanship that marked its passage, but even during their victory lap there were signs that the warm fuzzies may be short-lived.

Governor Tom Wolf joined advocates and Lebanon County lawmakers on Monday to celebrate the measure's enactment. For state lawmakers, it is a rare moment of pride after a year in which the state legislature has been an object of derision over the months-long budget gridlock.

"I totally call this a nonpartisan victory," said Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon County), speaking about the medical marijuana bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate. "I'm hoping there's going to be more opportunities to do this."

But the kumbaya moment will be tough to replicate. Wolf himself didn't sound optimistic that any political lessons of the medical marijuana bill might be applied to budget negotiations.

"That's going to be really tough," said Wolf. "We'll give it a try."

And as other lawmakers have pointed out, the unrelenting push for the medical marijuana bill came from a sympathetic group of citizen lobbyists led by mothers of sick children.

"These folks that I would call the mama bears... were the best lobbyists I've ever seen in my entire life," said Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon).

Remnants of last year's budget fight remain unfinished. A whole new negotiation looms for the fiscal year starting in July. And on taxes and spending matters, there's no group of mama bears to persuade lawmakers to come together.

At one point during Monday's press conference, Diamond turned to Wolf, the Democratic governor who had been an early ally of medical marijuana supporters and a fierce critic of Republicans during budget talks.

"We disagree a lot," Diamond said.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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