The Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure to protect the state’s medical cannabis patients from wrongful driving under the influence convictions, PennLive reports. The bill would treat medical cannabis like any other prescription narcotic, requiring proof of impairment that interferes with an individual’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle for them to be charged with a DUI.
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R) said during the hearing that the state’s current zero-tolerance law for DUI allows medical cannabis patients to be arrested, charged, and convicted for using medical cannabis prior to driving, even if they show no signs of impairment. She added that the proposal doesn’t “give patients a free pass to drive while impaired by medical cannabis” and that, if convicted, the driver will “suffer the most serious consequences” of the state’s DUI laws.
“Senate Bill 167 is critically needed to protect the medical cannabis community as the penalties for a controlled substance significantly escalate.” — Bartolotta, during the committee meeting, via PennLive
The measure will apply retroactively to medical cannabis patients who have received a DUI despite not being impaired, the report says.
At a September hearing on the issue, Pennsylvania State Police representatives indicated they didn’t see the proposal as having a negative impact on road safety, since the legislation doesn’t allow for medical cannabis patients to use their status as legal cannabis consumers as an excuse for driving impaired in a DUI case.
The bill moves next to the full Senate for consideration.
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