Gov. Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Legislature Passes Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Bills

Cannabis and its non-psychoactive cousin scored victories in the Pennsylvania legislature yesterday as the House and Senate passed medical marijuana and industrial hemp bills, respectively.

The medical marijuana plan covers patients with 17 chronic conditions, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder. It does not allow for the plant to be smoked, opting instead for the drug to be ingested via pill, oil or liquid, similar to programs in New York and Minnesota. The proposal, which passed 149-43, would permit the state to license up 25 cultivators and 50 dispensaries with three locations each.

“Today we have the opportunity of offering hope to the parents of these children, to the patients, offering the hope of letting them, along with their doctors, decide how to best treat the conditions they’re dealing with on a daily basis,” Rep. Jim Cox (R) said in the Associated Press report.  

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) thanked the legislature in a blog post and continued advocating for a medical marijuana program in the state.

“Soon, we will finally provide the essential help needed by those suffering from seizures, cancer, and other illnesses,” he wrote. “It is long past time to provide this important medical relief to patients and families across the commonwealth, and I thank the quick action by the Pennsylvania House to bring us a huge step closer to legalizing medical marijuana.”

The bill’s next stop is the Senate, where similar legislation was passed 40-7 last May.

Meanwhile, the industrial hemp bill passed by the Senate would authorize higher education institutions in the state to conduct hemp cultivation research pilot programs.

Passing 49-0, Senate Bill 50 builds on a 2014 move by Congress to relax federal restrictions on hemp cultivation as part of the omnibus federal Farm Bill, according to The Daily Chronic.  

Sen. Judy Schwank (D), the bill’s sponsor, said while she didn’t expect hemp to be used commercially for “many years,” the proposal “opens the possibilities for future generations of farmers.”

“Hemp would allow Pennsylvania to be on the same playing field with states that have already passed some form of hemp legislation,” Schwank said in a press release. “The soil and climate here in PA is perfect for growing hemp and hemp got its start in PA. We have townships such as Hempfield Township in Lancaster that were named after the crop and its viability in the area.

The bill has not had a ‘nay’ vote yet, passing through the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee 11-0 last October.

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