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Politics & Government

Medical Marijuana Proposal Faces An Uncertain Future

A plan to legalize medical marijuana could be taken up by the full state Senate in the four weeks the Legislature is scheduled to be in session this fall.

The measure to create a regulatory framework for growing and prescribing medical cannabis got a key Senate committee vote in June.       

GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said Wednesday that his caucus will discuss next week whether they can pass the plan.

“It has broad support in the caucus,” Pileggi said. “I haven’t counted heads, and I can’t tell you if it’s 13 or 23.”

Pileggi said the measure would likely be changed, but he declined to explain how.

“It’s a complicated bill,” he said. “The concept is simple, but the bill itself is complicated.”

The measure would probably allow more than just the cannabis oil extract for severely epileptic children that Gov. Tom Corbett has said he could support.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), one of the chief proponents of the measure in the Senate, said the plan under consideration is still along the lines of what was approved by a committee. Folmer called it a “whole-plant, broad bill designed to give help to any people suffering from a debilitating disease.”

Folmer voiced more concern about “the quagmire of the legislative process.” The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session for just four weeks before the election, and the bill hasn’t been considered by the House, where the Republican majority leader remains opposed.

“The opposition isn’t so much in the rank and file,” Folmer said. He referred to the intense education campaign undertaken by pro-legalization “amateur lobbyists,” who include veterans, cancer patients, and parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy who all say their ailments can be treated with some form of cannabis.

“They refer to themselves as the mama bears ... We’re picking up more and more support,” Folmer said. “My only fear is time.”