A proposal to allow marijuana to be prescribed for a list of medical conditions is heading to the Pennsylvania House floor, where it could face changes before a final vote.
The House planned to take up more than 220 amendments to the bill on Monday, and it could be Wednesday or later before the chamber decides whether to approve the legislation.
The 69-page bill under consideration passed the Senate in May by a vote of 40 to 7.
The Medical Cannabis Act would empower a state board to license growers, dispensers and processors.
Patients would need a written certification from a doctor or nurse confirming they have a qualifying condition.
The list of approved conditions includes cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma, diabetes and chronic or intractable pain.
Julie Michaels is a medical marijuana advocate with Campaign for Compassion and has a 6-year-old named Sydney, who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a type of epilepsy. Michaels said finding a treatment that works has been difficult.
“Sydney has tried and failed over 13 different anti-epileptic drugs as of this point, as well as a special epileptic diet which she is still currently on,” Michaels said.
She said these drugs have undesirable side effects and can be addictive, but was encouraged by success stories from parents in other states who used medical marijuana as a treatment.
“When I saw some of these kids going from thousands of seizures a month, just like my Sydney can have, down to zero or one seizure a month, I mean, that’s just incredible,” she said.
Peggy Beem Jelley, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Western and Central Pennsylvania, said her organization supports the legalization of medicinal marijuana, but would like to conduct more research on its effectiveness in treating different types of epilepsy.
“There still needs to be some research behind (medical marijuana use),” Beem Jelley said. “In order to do that, we need these kinds of changes in state and federal laws.”
She said if the bill is passed, her organization would work to ensure that safeguards would be put in place to ensure medical marijuana is safe for patients to use.