Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania into law. The bill will go into effect in the next month, making Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Gov. Wolf signed the bill into law Sunday afternoon surrounded by a crowd of supporters, many of them parents with children. Law makers from both sides of the isle, in what was a bi-partisan effort lobbied to make medical marijuana legal.
“Marijuana is medicine and it’s coming to Pennsylvania,” said Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach, the bill’s co-sponsor. Pennsylvania joins 23 other U.S. states with comprehensive public medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The legislation’s drafters say it could take two years to write regulations and get retailers opened, but a provision allows parents to legally administer medical marijuana to their children before the bill takes effect in a month. The laws “safe haven” provision allows families with children suffering one of the conditions to obtain medical marijuana from another state before Pennsylvania’s program is up and running.
The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor, ointment or liquid form, but would not be able to legally obtain marijuana to smoke or grow.
Sen. Mike Vereb, a Republican, called on lawmakers to take on what he called “the number-one killer in Pennsylvania” – opioid abuse.
“Opioid abuse has no party, has no color, has no religion,” Vereb said. “Let’s face it, that’s the killer. What we’re doing today is the healer.”
Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Loren Robinson says patients with a qualifying condition will need to be certified by a licensed medical provider.
“The patient will submit the form to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in order to receive a patient identification card for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana program,” she says. “Once they have received their patient identification card, patients can go to one of the 150 dispensaries located across the commonwealth, present their patient identification card and purchase medical marijuana.”
Wolf called it “a great, great day for Pennsylvania, but more important, a great day for Pennsylvanians.” He said he and lawmakers were responding not to a special interest group or to campaign contributors, but to “a real human need.”
“When you have people who represent a cause as eloquently and in as heartfelt a way as the advocates for this have done, it shows that we can actually get something done that means something,” Wolf said. “All we are asking here is to have the ability to have that doctor make a decision in conjunction with his or her patient that will make that patient’s life better.”