HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Senate approved a revised bill Tuesday (42-7) that would allow residents suffering from debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The Senate made some technical changes to the version of SB 3 that the House approved last month.
The revised bill will now go back to the House for concurrence. If the House votes to concur on Wednesday, SB 3 will be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature. If the House makes any changes to the bill, it will have to return to the Senate for a third vote, further delaying the process. If the House does not vote Wednesday, it will have to wait until May at the earliest because there are no more session days in April.
“We are so relieved that the end is in sight,” said Latrisha Bentch of Harrisburg, whose daughter suffers from mesial temporal sclerosis, a condition marked by frequent seizures that could be treated with medical marijuana. She is a founding member of the Campaign for Compassion, a local organization of patients and families advocating for comprehensive medical marijuana legislation.
“We hope the House does the right thing tomorrow and votes for concurrence,” Bentch said. “No more amendments, no more delays. It’s time to concur.”
The Senate originally approved SB 3 by a vote of 40-7 in May 2015. The bill then stalled in the House for approximately 10 months before an amended version was approved 149-43 on March 17.
SB 3 would allow patients with qualifying conditions to use and safely access medical cannabis with their physicians’ recommendations. Up to 25 Department of Health-licensed growers and processors would produce medical cannabis, which could be dispensed by up to 50 dispensaries, each of which could have up to three locations. The qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures, autism, PTSD, sickle cell anemia, and intractable pain if conventional therapies or opiates are contraindicated or ineffective.
“Pennsylvania patients and their families have had to work far too hard and for far too long to gain legal access to medical marijuana,” said Becky Dansky, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “They should not have to wait any longer. We urge the House to concur tomorrow, so we can begin the process of implementing this important program.”