Medical Marijuana Bill Signed into Law in Pennsylvania, What’s Next?

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SCRANTON -- With the stroke of a pen, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill that legalizes medical marijuana in Pennsylvania Sunday afternoon.

It will be more than a year before patients will be able to get access to medical marijuana across the state, yet this is a big step for the Commonwealth, becoming the 24th state to make cannabis legal to treat numerous conditions.

Applause and tears filled the rotunda of the state Capitol as Governor Wolf signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Sponsors of the bill spoke about how their decision to support the measure was motivated by compassion for patients.

"My only observation of marijuana all along was that it was a narcotic, and if you had it, I would arrest you. So I had some transition, but see you can transition if you are willing to listen," said Rep. Mike Vereb, R-150th.

While the ceremony was taking place in Harrisburg, the Northeast Pennsylvania Cannabis Rally was underway at Nay Aug Park in Scranton. Organizers say it was just a coincidence this rally fell on the same day as the governor's bill signing. Reaction to the news ranged from joy to skepticism.

Dave Bliler of Jessup was overjoyed about the news crediting cannabis oil with stopping his daughter's seizures and treating his PTSD.

"Thank you, Governor Wolf for saving my life. I am sorry. I am getting choked up. She is my life. I am a veteran. It is saving my life," Bliler said.

Paula Gallagher of Hazleton is a great grandmother, and hopes she will be able to take fewer medications.

"I don't want to be addicted to pain pills, and I have arthritis. I have rheumatism. I have osteoporosis. Give me a break," said Gallagher.

Not everybody we spoke to at the rally is overjoyed about the new law. Some people see it as too restrictive.

The bill allows cannabis to be prescribed for 17 conditions ranging from cancer to PTSD, but it doesn't allow patients to smoke the substance or grow plants at home.

"It clings to the old non-scientific, non-viable "Reefer Madness" propaganda as opposed to the truth about a nontoxic plant," said Carl Romanelli with the Luzerne County Green Party.

While medical marijuana is legal in nearly half of the United States, recreational use is only allowed in four: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Organizers of this event in Scranton hope to add Pennsylvania to that list.

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law will eventually allow 150 dispensaries in the state.

We asked some of the business owners at the rally if they would want to be involved with opening one in our area, but they said they feel the red tape would be too overwhelming.

Anyone wanting to be a grower or processor needs to pay a $10,000 application fee, a registration fee of $200,000, and have $2 million in capital, including $500,000 in a bank.

Dispensaries need to pay $5,000 for an application, $30,000 for a registration fee for each location, and have $150,000 in a bank.

A fiscal impact report estimates that application and registration fees will net Pennsylvania $10 million within a year. The state will also impose a 5 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana.

Doctors will need to register with the state Department of Health and complete an educational course before being able to recommend cannabis to patients.

Patients will have to apply to the health department to receive a medical marijuana card allowing them to purchase the medicine at one of the dispensaries.

It is not clear at this time how much medical marijuana will cost patients.

A "safe haven" provision included in the bill goes into effect in 30 days. It protects parents who give medical marijuana acquired from another state to a child under 18 with an approved condition. After six months, the safe haven law will also cover adults.

18 comments

    • keith hinkel

      to … mr secret–I agree and as we can read the rich will control the growing/sale/banking for this wacky tobakkie. State does take careof their own and hell with us trying to get by and make a buck.

  • PA MMJ Advocates (@MMJ4PA)

    In the short term this law means nothing. There’s no legal way to get MMJ in to the state. All surrounding states do not reciprocate licenses, do not allow transportation out of state, do not sell oils, do not have dispensaries, or just plain old haven’t legalized it. It’ll be at least two years for any real action and four years until the future of MMJ in PA is actually known.

    To get to a state where Pennsylvanian’s can immediately access cannabis oils, one would have to cross multiple non-MMJ state lines and travel over 1,000 miles… All the way to Colorado.
    It’s impossible to bring oil back to PA from CO.
    Firstly, the DEA will nab you for interstate drug trafficking/distribution and possession of a controlled substance. Secondly, the DEA will backhand the state in to revoking your card privileges. Thirdly, even if the state you get nabbed in is a legal state, you had to pass non-MMJ state lines while in possession of the oil. Fourthly, you’re going to give a bad name to medical marijuana. I could go on and on (again, I am not a lawyer, this is common sense, don’t take this as legal advice).
    Simply put… There is no “beltway” of legal states linking Colorado to Pennsylvania.
    There are constant police patrols, checkpoints and arrests in all states surrounding Colorado. These aren’t just at the boarders either. It’s useless
    We are not lawyers, this is not legal advice.

    • keith hinkel

      Your article is correct–almost–State allows GROWING IF one has the money for the applications. There will be LAND needed–I will lease my 8 acres to anyone wanting to grow marijuana and has the proper license[s].

  • Cassie

    Good idea if it can relieve pain from certain conditions, but how do we monitor to make sure it is used only where needed. May open the flood gates for others that just want the high. Too Much drug use in this area already,

    • Jacka

      Pot is not the problem..
      And it’s also extremely easy to get so your average addict isn’t playing the system for such a basic high.. And I’m no expert but I don’t think the oils have the same effect.. Could be wrong not googling right now..

    • Romanna

      How do we monitor a plant that has never ever caused one single overdose? Alcohol kills people and livers on a daily basis but I can go buy a shopping cart full of liquor and it’s a ok right? Don’t get it twisted. This is about companies making money. Has nothing to do with well being of people of PA. Let the frackers ruin PA but don’t grow you own plants.

  • rcarson79

    I smoked weed a long time ago. The main thing it did for me it relived stress and I slept great the evenings I got high. I think one of the issues with allowing people to grow their own marijuana will be smoking more than they should and selling. They need to figure out how much marijuana brings you down, but does not starves your brain of oxygen.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    I used to smoke weed and actually enjoyed, then I graduated high school.

    Of all its benefits, let’s not forget 1 thing, it starves your brain of oxygen.

  • Roger

    Wolf is an idiot! Takes forever to pass a budget thru but can sign this ridiculous bill at the drop of a hat. What about the billions spent trying to control it and countless lives of public officials lost in an effort to combat the use of it over the years. How soon we forget!

    • slowryder

      Doesn’t that tell you the war on drugs did not work? And the bill is not ridiculous…..It is compassion for those who need it. Should we stick with painkillers instead of a natural alternative? I guarantee you have had alcohol at some point in your life correct? Did prohibition work? Open your mind and try to understand the needs of others. I hope you never have to make the decision to get a prescription for it, but if you or someone you love does….Wouldn’t you want to ease their suffering. The world isn’t all about money and budgets…..I am sure many parents of kids who need this would welcome the burden of worrying about money instead of their child’s health. This is the brainwashing that the failed laws that were enacted to combat the “evil weed.” Look back and see why it was originally outlawed. You may be surprised.

    • Jim

      This drug war did one thing well victimless crime normal to a point they crash through your house with tanks and were ok with it . It wrecked this country

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