State House Sound Bites

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

Medical marijuana to become law in PA

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 13, 2016 7:59 PM
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Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), right, embraces Lolly Bentch in the moments after the House vote approving medical marijuana. Photo by Mary Wilson/WITF.


Governor Tom Wolf plans to sign a measure to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania this weekend, after a measure received final approval from the Legislature Wednesday afternoon.

Citizen lobbyists who championed the proposal for the past three years cheered as the bill passed the state House, 149-46. Advocates had worried for weeks that it might be bogged down by legislative amendments as House and Senate lawmakers tried to reconcile different versions of the plan.

"Stalling on this issue is just really standing in the way of a miracle," said Lolly Bentch, a Dauphin County mother who was among the leaders of the bill's advocacy effort. She says medical marijuana treats her young daughter's intractable seizures. "I'm just so happy more families can potentially experience something miraculous in their children's lives, and in the adult patients' lives as well."

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) noted the dozens of advocates who first brought the issue to his door and kept it on lawmakers' radar for the past year.

"This is what our founders intended lobbying to be," said Folmer. "Citizens fighting for the right to make sure that no government would stand between them, their doctors, and their medication."

Wolf, who has met publicly with medical marijuana advocates at least twice since taking office, said he would sign the proposal into law during a public ceremony at the state Capitol Rotunda on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The proposal would let doctors recommend certain forms of marijuana as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including cancer, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis. Backers say if the regulatory set-up moves swiftly, medical marijuana could be legally obtained in Pennsylvania in less than two years.

Opponents of the measure say they're uncomfortable the state will allow any kind of marijuana when it's still classified by the federal Food and Drug Administration as among the most dangerous and addictive substances.

Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga), who resisted advancing a medical marijuana bill out of the Health Committee he chairs, took to the House floor Wednesday afternoon, warning that the measure's unanticipated implications are legion.

"Medicine should undergo strict FDA clinical trials and an approval process to ensure they are safe and effective and that we do no harm," said Baker. "This bill fails those tests."


Published in State House Sound Bites

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