Scarnati says medical marijuana bill on hold for now, needs more study
HARRISBURG — Support for medicinal marijuana reached a high-water mark in the Capitol on Friday when the Senate Law and Justice Committee unanimously passed a legalization proposal, but that may be as far as it gets for now.
The first-of-its-kind vote marked the most legislative progress a marijuana-related legalization bill has made in Pennsylvania. Supporters have said they want the proposal to pass before lawmakers go on break for the summer, but Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati said he does not anticipate allowing a vote on the bill as legislators rush to finish a budget before Monday's deadline.
“I don't know if that's an issue we can fully vet,” Scarnati said. But the vote and discussion raise “the level of conversation” on the topic, he said.
The bill would establish a Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing charged with regulating growers, dispensers and processors.
The Law and Justice Committee held two hearings on the bill, featuring testimony from prospective patients and their families, doctors and researchers.
Patrick Nightingale, executive director of marijuana advocacy group Pittsburgh NORML, said the committee vote, while significant in a historical context, is the first step of many.
“We believe it will pass quickly, because of the amount of support we believe we have, as demonstrated by the unanimous vote,” Nightingale said.
He hopes, despite Scarnati's comments, that the Senate will pass the bill with a veto-proof majority. From there, the proposal would head to the House, where Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks County, is developing companion legislation that has garnered bipartisan co-sponsors.
Gov. Tom Corbett has not voiced support for the plan and called for more research on non-psychoactive forms of the drug.
The Senate plan would allow patients to obtain marijuana with a prescription to help treat or ease pain from certain medical conditions, including cancer, seizure conditions and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Twenty-two states allow marijuana, illegal under federal law, to be used for medical purposes.
“Despite many prejudices surrounding this issue, the use of medical cannabis offers tremendous potential as a safe and effective treatment for many Pennsylvanians suffering from chronic illness,” said a statement from the committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks County.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-8511.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Storms knock out power to several hundred in Western Pa.
- Judge dismisses UPMC ‘data breach’ lawsuit
- Penn State lands 4-star offensive lineman from Reading
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Gunmen hijack buses in Pakistan, kill passengers
- Gameday: Pirates at Padres, May 30, 2015
- Massive coal breaker, Pennsylvania’s last, is coming down
- Man dies trying to escape fire at his North Buffalo home
- Inmate assaults Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputy at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital
- Brief lockdown lifted at Jeannette school after unfounded report of man with weapon
- Sources: Ex-House Speaker Hastert paid to conceal misconduct