Medical marijuana in PA closes in on passage

CBS 21

The legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania could be coming down to the final stages. The House worked late into Monday night, considering dozens of amendments to Senate Bill 3, that already passed the Senate last May.

"It's all good. It's all progress. It's all steps in the right direction," said Lolly Bentch. Her daughter suffers from seizures and she thinks she would benefit from the drug.

Supporters of medical marijuana, like Bentch, kept a watchful eye over the progress of Senate Bill 3. The House worked until about 9 p.m., considering a handful of the 220 amendments attached to the bill.

"There are a whole host of Pennsylvanians that this will help and benefit. They are suffering right now and are entirely dependent on a cocktail of chemicals that is not working for them. This should prove beneficial," said Rep. Kevin Schreiber, Democrat of York County.

The biggest step forward last night came with the passage of an amendment from Rep. Ron Marsico, a Dauphin County Republican. The amendment would add a five percent tax to growers and processors, along with giving a newly formed advisory committee the ability to add and subtract treatable diseases. Right now, there is a list of conditions including cancer, epilepsy, MS and aids that would qualify for the drug.

"There are a lot of patients that need help. For all of our loved ones, for all of the people that we hold so dear, the chronic pain patients that we have met, patience with PTSD and cancer, this is a huge victory for all of them," Bentch said.

The bill has finally hit the full floor for consideration after being stuck in the House Health Committee since it passed the Senate 40-7 in May. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Matt Baker, a Republican from Tioga County, was holding up the bill because he didn't think Pennsylvania should bypass the federal government, which still has marijuana listed as a Schedule One drug.

"I think this bill now how's enough support to pass the house and we know the governor would like to see this on his desk," Schreiber said.

The House seems to be moving forward with the most contentious of amendments first. Many think, if those amendments pass, the others might be withdrawn and a final vote could happen as soon as Wednesday.

If this does pass the House and the Governor signs it into law, there is still a lot of work to be done. The infrastructure will need to be set up, including the growers and dispensaries. The first sales of medical marijuana would still be about two years away.

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