Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Medical Pot Bill Could Be Up in Smoke, Backers Fear

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Medical Pot Bill Could Be Up in Smoke, Backers Fear

Article excerpt

A week after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took a long-awaited vote to legalize medical marijuana, key backers are worried that the law's implementation could be slowed or even derailed by last-minute changes to the measure.

Senate Republicans say that the 154-page legislation passed by the House was a gutted and heavily revised version of their original 69-page bill, and that some of the changes could be so problematic that they could unnecessarily delay getting medical marijuana into patients' hands.

Sen. Mike Folmer, the Lebanon County Republican who sponsored the initial legislation and has been among its biggest champions, is now considering pressing for changes and another vote by both chambers instead of signing off on the House bill and sending it to Gov. Tom Wolf.

"There have been lots of discussions - but there's been no decision," Mr. Folmer's chief of staff, Fred Sembach, said Thursday.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, the bill's co-sponsor, said trying to again revise it could spell disaster.

"If we send it back to the House, we may never see it again," said Mr. Leach, who added that he prefers that the Senate accept the House bill and iron out any flaws through the courts and the regulatory process.

Supporters had hoped last week's House vote marked their final hurdle. Mr. Wolf even congratulated advocates - many of them parents of children with chronic illnesses - who for years had lobbied legislators to make Pennsylvania the 24th state allowing patients to access medical marijuana.

The law would establish a licensing, dispensary and regulatory system, and make the drug available in pill, oil, or ointment form to patients who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, seizures and other conditions.

Mr. Wolf's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, said the governor "was ready to sign the House bill and had hoped it would pass quickly through the Senate."

But when the Senate reconvened this week and the bill did not come up for a vote, concern sprouted.

Senate staff members and lawyers have flagged a number of "flaws," such as reference numbers between the two bills not lining up and language that would make applications of the law difficult if not impossible in some ways. …

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