Governor Shapiro proposes legalization to catch up to “friggin’ Ohio”
On February 6, 2024, Governor Josh Shapiro (D) gave his 2024-2025 budget address, which included legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults. The budget proposes legalization on July 1 of this year, with licensed shops launching sales starting January 1, 2025. Additionally, the budget proposes a 20 percent tax “on the wholesale price of products sold through the regulated framework of the production and sales system, once legalized”.
Still, it is up to legislators to effectuate the policy change. The House Health Committee has been holding a series of informational hearings on adult-use legalization, and senators have introduced a bi-partisan legalization bill.
In July 2023, Sen. Sharif Street (D) and Sen. Dan Laughlin (R) introduced SB 846, legislation to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis in Pennsylvania. The bill would allow adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and gift up to 30 grams of cannabis, while providing expungements for past cannabis convictions.
Additionally, SB 846 creates a Cannabis Regulatory Control Board that would be charged with licensing and regulating both medical cannabis and the new cannabis industry and requires them to develop policies to prioritize diversity and full participation in the industry by communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. Cannabis products would be subject to 13% in taxes at the point of retail sale. You can check out our full summary of the legislation here.
With support from the governor, the House’s Democratic majority, and some powerful supporters in the Senate Republican caucus, there is a real chance for legalization in the Keystone State in the coming years. Please email your lawmakers today and ask them to legalize cannabis for adults in Pennsylvania!
Senate committee approves bills to improve medical cannabis program
In June 2023, the Pennsylvania Senate Law & Justice Committee approved two bills that would greatly expand and improve the state’s medical cannabis program — SB 835 and SB 538.
SB 835 would remove the list of 24 qualifying conditions for medical cannabis and instead let physicians recommend medical cannabis for any condition they believe it would alleviate. The legislation would also remove the expiration date on medical cannabis cards and allow cannabis administration via inhalation. The committee approved SB 835 in a 10-1 vote.
Meanwhile, SB 538 would allow the sale of edible medical cannabis products in the program. Currently, Pennsylvanians can only buy medical cannabis products such as pills, oils, topicals, dry leaf (vaporized not smoked), tinctures, and liquids. Dissolvable oral products — such as lozenges — are also allowed. SB 538 also cleared the committee in a 10-1 vote.
Less than two years after the governor signed Act 16into law, dispensaries began selling medical marijuana to patients and caregivers in February 2018. Since then, there have been several improvements made to the program.
On June 30, 2021, then-Governor Tom Wolf signed P.L. 210 into law, making several improvements to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. P.L. 210 (otherwise known as HB 1024) was sponsored by Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) and acts on recommendations made by the Department of Health to revise the Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into law in 2016.
The law most notably allows patients to purchase three times as much cannabis as they previously could, and it removes language that steered chronic pain patients to try more dangerous painkillers first. P.L. 210 also narrowed the restriction on people with past drug convictions working in or owning medical cannabis businesses. It protects patient safety standards and the product quality of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program while also empowering the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to continue to consider new medical conditions for eligibility. It retained certain flexibilities enacted under the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration that patients and dispensaries found improved safe access. You can check out a summary of P.L. 210 here and a full summary of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law here.
MPP has developed several fact sheets for Pennsylvania patients, caregivers, doctors, and employers. Please print and share these materials with others, including your physician.
Last week, the 2022 session for Pennsylvania’s legislature began. Last year saw several legalization and decriminalization proposals, but none received a hearing or were called for a vote. Luckily, many of the 2021 proposals have carried over to 2022, which presents another opportunity to enact sensible, humane cannabis policy before the session adjourns in November.