Committee votes in favor of bill that would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to use marijuana to treat their medical conditions
The Pennsylvania State House Health Committee on Friday voted unanimously to approve SB 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.
The vote follows the filing of a discharge petition by Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) that would have removed SB 3 from the Health Committee where it had stalled and put it before the full House for a vote.
“While it is a relief that SB 3 is no longer stalled in the Health Committee, it is imperative that it promptly moves to the floor,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fogel, a retired pediatrician who has a debilitating neurologic condition causing bouts of extreme pain. “It’s been over eight months since the Senate first passed a medical cannabis bill. Pennsylvanians have needlessly suffered for far too long. We need relief now.”
"I want to be thrilled by Baker's shocking reversal to move this bill out of his committee today, but after such fierce opposition to this bill I have to wonder if this is just another stall tactic being used to prevent us from getting medicine to our loved ones," said Lolly Bentch, member of Campaign 4 Compassion, whose daughter has intractable epilepsy.
Planned discharge petition would remove SB 3 from House Health Committee where it has stalled and permit a vote in the full House of Representatives
Pennsylvania State Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) filed a discharge petition in the House of Representatives on Friday to remove a medical marijuana bill from the House Health Committee and bring it to the full floor for a vote. SB 3 would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors.
Rep. Matthew Baker (R-Wellsboro), who chairs the Health Committee, has stated that he will not call the bill for a vote there.
“There is no reason this compassionate legislation should not get a full vote,” said Christine Brann of Dauphin County, whose son has an intractable seizure condition called Dravet Syndrome. “SB 3 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and is supported by the vast majority of Pennsylvania doctors as well as residents. We know this works. The time to allow our most vulnerable residents to access medical marijuana is now – not in the fall.”
Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Harrisburg) announced his plans to introduce a new medical marijuana bill in the coming weeks but details have not been finalized.
“Thousands of seriously ill Keystone State residents are depending on our representatives to support this discharge petition and SB 3,” said Mike Whiter, a combat veteran from Philadelphia who suffers from PTSD. “Chairman Marsico's proposal — that he write a bill that would not be considered until fall — is not a reasonable alternative.
A group of medical doctors will visit Pennsylvania state lawmakers on Tuesday and urge them to support legislation that would allow seriously ill residents to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
They will join a group of local combat veterans and their loved ones at 1:30 p.m. ET for a news conference outside the Lt. Governor’s Office.
Participants in the event will include Dr. Sue Sisley, a nationally recognized authority on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with medical marijuana; Dr. Sanjay Gupta of Philadelphia, a prominent pain management specialist; Dr. Scott Mueller of Mechanicsburg, a family medicine physician; combat veterans Mike Whiter and Barrett Thompson of Philadelphia, both of whom suffer from PTSD; and Donnamarie Freedman of Cumberland County, the mother of a veteran who committed suicide after struggling with PTSD.
The Senate approved SB 3 40-7 on May 12, and the issue is awaiting consideration in the House. SB 3 would allow patients with serious medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state.
Smoking would not be permitted, but patients would be allowed to consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions would be allowed to consume it through vaporization. To qualify, patients would need recommendations from their doctors.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.
By Steve Elliott
The Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday voted 40-7 to approve a bill that would make it legal for seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat their conditions with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.
SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), would allow qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state.
Smoking would not be permitted under the restrictive language of the bill, but patients could consume marijuana in edible form, and patients with certain conditions could consume it through vaporization. Patients under the age of 18 would be required to have parental consent in order to take part in the program.
Unfortunately, home cultivation would also not be allowed under the bill, depriving many fixed-income patients of an economical way to provide their own medicine.
Pennsylvanians suffering from cancer, seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara ataxia (SCA), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and chronic pain would be eligible for the program with a recommendation from their doctor.
By Steve Elliott
A bill which would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the Keystone State unanimously passed a Pennsylvania Senate committee on Tuesday.
The bill, which would allow cannabis use for those with qualifying medical conditions, will likely face two more hurdles in early May, reports Tim Marcin at the International Business Times.
A bipartisan committee passed Senate Bill 3, proposed by Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach and Republican Sen. Mike Folmer, on a 10-0 vote, moving it on to the Senate Appropriations Committee, reports Tony Romeo at KYW Newsradio.
If it passes through that committee, the bill would move to the Senate floor, both of which should happen in early May, according to Sen. Leach.
SB 3 easily made it through the state Senate in 2014, passing with a 47-3 vote, but stalled after the House didn't take it up. Lawmakers in support of legalizing medical marijuana said they are more optimistic this time.
Folmer said he hopes the bill can reach the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf before lawmakers take their summer recess. That likely means convincing House members to get on board before the scheduled time off this summer.
"I know I'm being optimistic," Sen. Folmer said. "I get that ... I believe there are good people over there."
By Steve Elliott
Voters in three critical swing states -- Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- support legalization of medical marijuana by margins of 5-1 or more and also support legalization of recreational marijuana use by smaller margins, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Monday.
Support for medical marijuana is 84 - 14 percent in Florida, 84 - 15 percent in Ohio and 88 - 10 percent in Pennsylvania, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no candidate has won the Presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.
Support for allowing adults "to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use" is 55 - 42 percent in Florida, 52 - 44 percent in Ohio and 51 - 45 percent in Pennsylvania.
But swing state voters say they don't plan to use marijuana themselves:
• 17 percent of Florida voters say they "definitely" or "probably" would use it, while 81 percent say they "probably" or "definitely" would not;
• 14 percent of Ohio voters say they "definitely" or "probably would use it, while 84 percent say "definitely" or "probably" not;
• 15 percent of Pennsylvania voters say they are likely to try, while 83 percent say no.
By Steve Elliott
Both advocates and critics expect a medical marijuana bill to reach Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's desk this year.
The first hearing on medical legalization was held in February in Harrisburg, and the next one is scheduled for March 24 in Philadelphia, reports Kris B. Mamula at the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Dr. Bruce MacLeod said he was booed for the first time in his career at last month's hearing after he advocated a cautious approach to medical marijuana. "We don't know the long-term effects of these medications and we're not sure of the dose," said MacLeod, who really should inform himself about cannabis before speaking publicly on the subject again.
"We're sympathetic to the patient suffering, but hold on," said MacLeod, medical director of emergency medicine at West Penn Hospital and past president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "Let's study this."
MacLeod's wait-and-see approach was dismissed by Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Pittsburgh NORML). Nightingale said numerous studies have already shown marijuana's effectiveness and safety.
"What in the hell does the Pennsylvania Medical Society need to wait for?" Nightingale asked. "It has already been used and abused for decades. It's a treatment alternative."
By Steve Elliott
Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that they say would help farmers become part of the multi-million dollar hemp industry.
"The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers," said state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County), who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County).
Schwank said industrial hemp has been used for thousands of years, and was commonly grown in Pennsylvania until the last century.
About 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp, including textiles, building materials, paper, plastics, foods, medicines, biomass, and environmental products.
"The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits," Folmer said. "The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably.
"Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment," Folmer said. "Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp."
More than a dozen other states have already passed laws allowing either hemp farming or research programs. The hemp industry was worth an estimated $500 million in 2012, according to the Hemp Industries Association.
By Steve Elliott
Sometimes you just know someone really means it when you see the message on their t-shirt. A Florida man was arrested in Kmart wearing a black t-shirt that asked in large white letters: "Who Needs Drugs?" Beneath that, the shirt says in smaller lettering, "No, seriously, I have drugs."
John Balmer, an unemployed 50-year-old Pennsylvania native living in Spring Hill, Florida, entered the Kmart at 12412 U.S. 19 Monday night wearing the shirt, reports Geoff Fox at The Tampa Tribune.
Balmer was reportedly waiting in a checkout line at the store when a deputy entered. When Balmer saw the deputy, he attempted to pass a plastic bag containing marijuana and methamphetamine to the person standing behind him in line, according to a sheriff's report.
When the person refused the bag, Balmer walked to another cash register and dropped the bag on the floor, according to the report.
Balmer was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana; he's been arrested in Pasco several times since 2006, according to the sheriff's office. In 2002, he got just over a year in state prison for burglary and trafficking in stolen property, according to state corrections records.
Balmer was in the Land O'Lakes Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $2,150, according to jail records.
Photo of John Balmer: The Fix
By Steve Elliott
Leaders of the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House have roadblocked a bill which would have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in the Keystone State.
The GOP caucus does want to take a look at the medicinal cannabis bill that passed the Pennsylvania Senate last week, including holding public hearings, according to staffers for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County), reports Charles Thompson at The Patriot-News. But that means there is almost no chance the bill, which passed the Senate on an overwhelming 43-7 vote and is being referred to the House Judiciary Committee, will reach the House floor this year.
That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's been watching, according to Turzai's press secretary, Steve Miskin, who noted the Senate took nearly a year to develop the bill. It would be unrealistic "and irresponsible to just rubber-stamp a bill that creates an entire new bureaucracy" in less than two weeks, he said.
Turzai doesn't like to run bills that don't have support of the majority of the GOP caucus in the House, and it's not yet clear that a majority of Republicans support the bill. Additionally, with Gov. Tom Corbett preferring a much more limited version of "medical marijuana trials," House leaders reportedly don't want to drop a controversial bill in his lap in the last month of his reelection campaign.
Measure replaces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Wednesday signed a bill into law that replaces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
After stalling for much of the summer, the mayor agreed to sign a compromise bill approved on September 18 by the Philadelphia City Council. The new ordinance will take effect on October 20.
The initial version of the bill approved by the council on June 19 makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine. Following negotiations between Mayor Nutter and members of the council, the bill was amended to include a $100 fine for public consumption.
Current Philadelphia law requires police officers to make custodial arrests when they encounter people in possession of any amount of marijuana, and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $200 fine, and compulsory participation in a drug treatment program. Under current Pennsylvania state law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
By Steve Elliott
Dozens of medical marijuana supporters on Monday converged on the Pennsylvania's State Capitol as lawmakers returned from their summer recess.
Parents of ailing children and patients with serious medical conditions spoke at the rally about the need for safe access to cannabis, reports the Associated Press. Many in the crowd held up signs with slogans like "Pills Kill" and "Campaign 4 Compassion."
The demonstration was in support of Senate Bill 1182, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis act, whose prime sponsors Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) expect to be sent from the Senate Appropriations Committee to the floor of the state Senate next week.
"We are so close," Sen. Leach said, reports Kendra Nichols at ABC 27. "We are closer than we have ever been. If this runs in the Senate, we get more than 40 votes, and we are promised it will run next week in the Senate."
"We have counted in the House," Leach said. "There are 203 members. We have counted about 160 yes votes." However, Leach added, there is concern that the House "leadership" may block the bill from ever reaching the floor for a vote.
By Steve Elliott
Pennsylvania lawmakers will begin discussing a medical marijuana bill when the Legislature convenes next week, according to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.
Pileggi, a Republican from Chester, Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that he plans to caucus a medical marijuana bill after lawmakers return for the fall session, reports Christina Kauffman at The Patriot-News.
Senate Bill 1182, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County), passed 11-0 from the Senate Law and Justice Committee in June.
Pileggi said the medical marijuana bill has "broad support" in the Senate, and next week's discussion will decide whether to go forward with a vote of the full chamber.
Folmer on Wednesday said he believes he has the votes of 45 of the state's 50 senators, but the bill could face tougher going in the House of Representatives and with Governor Tom Corbett, who must sign it before it becomes law.
The final document is expected to be broader than a version the Governor previously said he would support, according to Pileggi.
Pharmaceutical companies are among the bill's strongest opposition, according to Folmer (no surprise there, medical marijuana threatens their profits), but Folmer said cannabis-derived treatments come without the life-threatening side-effects of many prescribed pharmaceuticals.
By Steve Elliott
Mayor Michael Nutter and City Councilman James Kenney have reached a compromise on a bill which will make Philadelphia the largest city in America to decriminalize marijuana.
People caught with fewer than 30 grams of marijuana, just over an ounce, would only be issued a citation and fined $25 under the plan, reports Chris Hepp at Philly.com. They would face no criminal charge or arrest.
The compromise calls for a separate offense and penalty for public use of cannabis. Those caught using marijuana in public would be charged with a noncriminal summary offense, and would face a $100 fine or up to nine hours of community service, according to Kenney.
The compromise ends a conflict between Councilman Kenney and Mayor Nutter which began following the Philadelphia City Council's 13-to-3 vote in June to pass Kenney's marijuana decrim bill.
Kenney argued that cannabis arrests are disproportionately affecting African Americans. Philly police arrested 4,336 people for marijuana possession last year, 83 percent of them black.
But Mayor Nutter called the legislation "simplistic" and declined to immediately sign it. This week, with the deadline for his signature approaching, Kenney and and mayor began meeting to work out a compromise.
By Steve Elliott
Lancaster may soon become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to officially support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The Lancaster City Council on Tuesday debated a resolution calling for medicinal cannabis, reports Bernard Harris at Lancaster Online. The nonbinding resolution comes in support of bills which are pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
A vote could come next week at the council's regular meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, September 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Southern Market Center, 100 S. Queen Street, Lancaster.
City Councilman Tim Roschel said he agreed to bring the resolution before the council for consideration because of the experience of a friend with cancer in Arizona. The friend's husband bought her cannabis with a doctor's authorization.
Roschel said he would not have wanted for his friend to be called a criminal.
Council member Pete Soto recalled both his parents dying of cancer. He said he wished medical marijuana had been available to relieve his mother's suffering after chemotherapy. "The remedy was worse than the disease," Soto said.
Former Mountville Mayor Connie Guy told the council that marijuana can be used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, seizures and fibromyalgia, from which she suffers. "We're not stoner potheads," Guy said. "We're mothers and fathers and children ... and we suffer."