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Politics & Government

Medical Marijuana Plan Faces a Skeptical House

A series of hearings in the state House are making one thing clear: medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania is no done deal.

State senators overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana last session. The governor supports its legalization as well. A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvanians last month showed 88 percent of respondents want medical marijuana legalized.

House members don't appear as quick to pass such a plan.

"Absolutely not. There isn't that level of support at all," said Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga). He chairs the House Health Committee, where he's nursing serious doubts about marijuana's medical benefits — and his own role in its legalization.

"Since when are lawmakers scientists or doctors that should be approving or disapproving of any medicine?" said Baker. "I think there's a level of hubris there, quite frankly, that perhaps shouldn't be there."

House Republican Majority Leader Dave Reed, a medical marijuana supporter, said the House is simply taking a cautious approach.

"I think there is widespread support for the concept, but folks are going to want to know the details," said Reed during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

The House held a second hearing on the issue Wednesday. Law enforcement groups, including district attorneys and police, urged legislators to strictly regulate medical marijuana if it is legalized.

Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, said she's concerned about making marijuana more available for recreational use, and the effect that'll have on substance abuse programs.

"If you're going to do this, we're going to have more business. We can't handle what we got now," said Beck. "So if you're going to do this, please carefully regulate it."