State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Medical marijuana teed up for final vote

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 12, 2016 6:32 PM
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A plan to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania may be closing in on its final vote in the state Legislature.

The Senate has approved a revised medical marijuana plan, setting the measure up for a final vote in the House. There had been concerns among supporters that the bill would become mired in a legislative game of ping-pong, but Republican Senate leaders say the language they've sent to the House is purely technical, and should receive speedy approval.

"We're almost there with a bill that truly works," said Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), the bill's Republican champion. "I ask for a yes vote... both here in the Senate and again in the House."

For supporters, the latest Senate vote is the culmination of years of painstaking advocacy. Holdouts remain - some lawmakers remain skeptical that there is sufficient medical research to support legalizing marijuana as a medical treatment - but in just a few years, the proposal has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman held back tears as he spoke of Folmer's ardent work on the issue. Corman likened him to Jimmy Stuart's virtuous character in the 1939 movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- the man who "changed minds and changed hearts."

"It was a great movie, but it was a movie," said Corman, pounding on the podium and suppressing a sob as he looked in Folmer's direction. "Mr. Smith came to Harrisburg."

Governor Tom Wolf has said he would sign the proposal, which would allow doctors to recommend certain forms of marijuana as a treatment for a set list of ailments, including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, and intractable seizures. Implementation could take years, with the Department of Health and a new advisory panel overseeing the substance's production and sale.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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