Still waiting for compassionate medical cannabis legislation
Last update: January 19, 2016
In May 2015, the Pennsylvania Senate approved SB 3 by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority. After almost eight months and countless broken promises, the House has still failed to act. Please call and email your state representative to urge swift passage of comprehensive medical cannabis legislation. You can also show your support by adding your signature at sickofwaitingpa.com.
For months, Chairman Matt Baker refused to allow SB 3 out of the Health Committee, until June when under the threat of a discharge petition, he agreed to send the bill to the House Rules Committee.
House Majority Leader David Reed (R), a supporter of medical cannabis, created a special working group to draft recommendations for a House bill. At the end of September, the working group sent its recommendations to Leader Reed. The Rules Committee advanced the bill to the floor on November 18. Since then, almost 200 amendments have been offered, including an amendment sponsored by Rep. Ron Marsico and supported by leadership that would replace the language of SB 3 with new language. Although the amendment includes many positive provisions, there are several areas of concern, such as an arbitrary cap on THC, an explicit prohibition on whole plant cannabis, and no immediate legal protections for patients.
Gov. Tom Wolf, the Senate, and the public all strongly support patients. The most recent poll showed 90% of Pennsylvanians support legalizing cannabis for medical use. Please urge your representative to call for a swift vote on a comprehensive and compassionate medical cannabis bill.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Pennsylvania are 5.2 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. The two largest cities in Pennsylvania have led the charge on decriminalization by enacting decriminalization laws in the last two years.
On October 1, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana in the City of Brotherly Love, making it the largest U.S. city to have done so. The ordinance removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a traffic ticket.
Under state law, however, an individual arrested for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in jail and fined up to $500.
On December 21, 2015, the Pittsburgh City Council voted to reduce the penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The mayor signed the law the following day. As of January 1, 2016, an individual found in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hash will face a fine of up to $100, instead of being charged with a misdemeanor.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Pennsylvania, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service now.
If you are a medical professional or a patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, or if you know somebody who might benefit from medical marijuana and you want to get involved, contact us at [email protected]. Please include your zip code so we can determine who your lawmakers are.
Interested clergy can sign a statement of support at clergyforcompassion.com.
Additionally, if you are a doctor, veteran, law enforcement official, a person who was arrested for marijuana possession, or an attorney, please email [email protected] to learn how you can be of special help.