Is Pennsylvania the next state to enact a Medical Marijuana Law?

As The Washington Post reports that states with medical marijuana laws enacted have a 25% lower incident of prescription overdose deaths than states without such laws, it is beginning to appear that Pennsylvania may become the next state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Riding a wave of good news of those in support of medical marijuana laws, the new researched published in the JAMA Internal Medicine review comes just before Pennsylvania’s State Legislature returns from its summer recess and takes up for consideration Senate Bill 1182, also known as “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.”

Current Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania

Marijuana is classified in Pennsylvania today as a Schedule 1 drug. A classification as a Schedule I drug means that the drug has a high potential for abuse by its users and provides its users no recognized medical value (35 Pa. Con. Stat. § 780-104.)  Further, possession, sale, and cultivation carry both monetary and incarceration penalties under Pennsylvania state law.

Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

A Wave of Change

Although many states have laws very similar to the Pennsylvania statute above, just about as many states have recently changed their marijuana laws.

According to the research published by JAMA and reported on by The Washington Post, only three states had medical marijuana laws enacted in 1999, when the study began. By the time the study ended in 2010, 10 more states had enacted similar pro-medical marijuana laws.

Currently, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form. Four states including Pennsylvania have proposed legislation working its way through their respective state legislatures to do the same. Both Colorado and Washington State have legalized the recreational use of marijuana within their states.

Pennsylvania’s “compassionate use” Law

In January of 2014, Senate Bill 1182, “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act” was introduced into the Pennsylvania state legislature. The bill enjoyed rare bipartisan support and was introduced by sponsors Democratic Senator Daylin Leach and Republican Senator Mike Folmer.

Under the law, the state will organize and oversee a system to both grow medical marijuana and sell it to patients within the state. The law will also establish and govern marijuana dispensaries to distribute the drug to those in need. Patients must be over the age of 21 and have a written verification from a reputable doctor in order to use and possess the drug.  However, qualified children may also use the drug with a guardian’s consent.

A patient will be authorized to possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana or up to 3 ounces of a marijuana concentrate. The drug may not be smoked but may be eaten by the patient. Further, the law establishes restrictions on home cultivation of marijuana and the drug must be treating a statute-approved illness. Illnesses approved by the law include cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, PTSD, HIV and AIDS.

The Senate plans to consider the law this September after returning from summer recess. If the law is approved, the Senate’s Appropriations Committee will immediately carefully scrutinize the economic impact of the law on the state. Once approved by Appropriations, the law will return to the Senate for at least two more considerations before moving on to the House for consideration. Current Governor Tom Corbett has publically stated he would veto the law if he were to remain in office after the November 2014 gubernatorial race. A July 2014 poll released by Franklin & Marshall College found that 84% of Pennsylvania residents favor medical marijuana use.

At Brownstone Law, we work specifically on appellate litigation. Our appellate attorneys are skilled in the areas of federal, criminal and civil appeals. If you would like more information concerning the law on medical marijuana in Pennsylvania or help with your appeal, please contact us today.

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