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Medical Marijuana Bill Closer to Floor Vote

Special series: This week we're exploring legislative action taken recently in Harrisburg on important bills that were overshadowed by the passage of the state budget.

For the first time bill to legalize medical marijuana has made it out of committee, and some state Senate members are confident that they can get it passed soon.

The Law and Justice Committee unanimously passed the legislation, and it now sits in the Appropriations Committee. State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) says that because the summer session is now over, it will be at least September before the bill is brought to the Senate floor. If approved it would then go to the House.

“I am very confident that there’s a majority of House members from both sides of the aisle that will approve it. Now where Corbett will be, I’m not sure, and you know that will be an ongoing battle, because he’s very backward. He’s not indicated that he’s going to be supportive at this point, but we have to keep the fight up,” said Ferlo.

Bill sponsor Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) says the bill will make its way along ASAP.

“And now we’re locked and loaded. We got it in the funnel. All we have to do is get it to be voted out and move forward. And I have a commitment from my leadership to do so, and we have the votes,” said Folmer.

The bill sets up a lot of safe guards to regulate the industry. It sets up the 11 member State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing who will oversee all regulations including: investigating applicants for licenses, approving applicants for licenses, and all power to suspend, deny or revoke licenses. ‘

Three types of licenses will be created for the industry (growers, processors, and dispensers.) Processors will be tasked with creating the oils, edibles, ointments and flowers meant for vaporization that will be sold in the dispensers.

Medical cannabis is much safer than some drugs approved by the FDA according to Folmer, “We know what the side effects of the FDA approved medications… It shuts down organs. It causes you to stop breathing, or your heart to stop beating, and so forth,” said Folmer. He also said that marijuana has been proven nontoxic.

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.