Pennsylvania legislators have two routes to legalize medical marijuana after a bill identical to an existing Senate measure was introduced Monday in the state House
House Bill 1181, named for former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer who campaigned for marijuana reform during his tenure in the late 1960s, would legalize marijuana use for patients with doctor’s recommendations It joins Senate Bill 770, which was introduced earlier this month.
If passed, the bills would allow patients to possess up to an ounce of cannabis at a time and grow up to six plants. They can also designate a caregiver, who can also grow up to six plants but can stockpile up to six ounces at a time.
Pennsylvania patients would also have “compassion centers” where they could purchase marijuana. The bill says that the health department “shall license a privately owned nonprofit compassion center” and that private licenses would be awarded based on a competitive bid. The state would limit the number of dispensaries to about 51, or one for every 250,000 people in the state. State sales tax would apply to marijuana transactions at a dispensary.
The bill would charge the state health department with managing the patient database and issuing registry cards for people with chronic pain, seizures, muscle spasms, severe nausea, cancer, AIDS and any number other chronic and debilitating conditions so long as a licensed professional agrees the patient would benefit. Patients under the age of 18 would need parental permission.
The database would be private, and only available to law enforcement specifically when they need to verify that someone using or possessing medical cannabis is “lawfully in possession of a registry identification card.”
Doctor protections were also written into the language, as well as language protecting patients against discrimination for any future medical care, like organ transplants. It also (importantly) protects parents who are medical marijuana cardholders from losing custody solely based on their status as a patient.
HB 1181 is currently in the House Health Committee. SB 770 is currently in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, where it has been since April 3.
Unfortunately, the bills don’t seem to stand much of a chance even if they do make it out of committee. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has his head up his ass and already came out against any cannabis legalization bills, repeatedly calling all marijuana users criminals and stating that cannabis a gateway drug.
The legislature is also considering a legalization bill nearly identical to the model Colorado passed last November that would make up to one ounce and six plants legal for Pennsylvanians over the age of 21. It would also establish state-regulated marijuana retail stores.
Currently, marijuana possession of an ounce is a misdemeanor charge with up to 30 days in jail and $500 in fines. Paraphernalia possession – which all three bills would also legalize – currently is a misdemeanor charge with up to a year and $2,500 in fines.