Pennsylvania House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill

Pennsylvania House approves House Bill 2477

PHILADELPHIA – The Pennsylvania House voted to amend the state's medical marijuana laws with House Bill 2477, which will add research regulations to the medical marijuana act. The bill was passed on Monday and will have another vote before it goes to the Senate floor. The House voted 167-31 to amend the medical marijuana law.

Members of the Pennsylvania House drafted the House Bill 2477 legislation to prevent future blockage of medical marijuana research. The Department of Health was sued by marijuana cultivators who opposed permits for state-approved institutions that conduct marijuana research. The group of marijuana cultivators had concerns about these institutions' medical marijuana licenses being approved before a long line of applicants already waiting for approval.

The cultivators were also concerned because the research institutions were allowed to provide medicine to people who were not part of the clinical trials' research and, therefore, competition.

A Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the group of cultivators with an injunction that put medical marijuana research on hold in the state. The new legislation would allow the state-approved institutions to continue marijuana research.

The amendment states that the commonwealth wanted to create legislation wherein the "commonwealth’s medical schools and hospitals can help develop research programs and studies,” according to U.S. News and World Report.

Eight Institutions Approved to Conduct Medical Marijuana Research in Pennsylvania

The institutions approved in Pennsylvania to conduct the medical marijuana research are Drexel University, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, Lake Erie College, Penn State-Hershey, and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne County) previously introduced a bill that would block institutions from providing the drug to those not participating in the clinical trials, but the bill was never passed.

House Bill 2477

Mullery argued that Pennsylvania House Bill 2477 would allow clinical registrants to obtain licenses while other marijuana cultivators are left out.

“We are too quickly expanding the market to the detriment of our commercial partners by not creating a level playing field,” he said, adding that the institutions would be in competition with non-profits.

Judith Cassel, the attorney for the marijuana cultivators said that the new legislation did nothing to put her clients' worries to rest. Cassel said it was unfair that some who never went through the vetting process or who "went through the vetting process and failed," will still be able to obtain a clinical registrant permit. She added that future litigation being filed by her clients is a possibility.

Rep. Katharine Watson (R-Bucks County) sponsored House Bill 2477 and encouraged her colleagues to support the bill saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, research shouldn’t wait anymore.” Watson went on to say that hard work went into the legislation to include regulations that would ensure scientific research is not only approved but also required by law.

Pennsylvania has around 23,000 medical marijuana patients who have received their state ID cards. The state has 20 medical marijuana dispensaries approved to dispense to qualified patients. The state of Pennsylvania currently has 21 conditions that qualify for medical marijuana.

The state also plans to introduce legislation that would allow medical marijuana patients the ability to drive legally. There is no test to measure when an individual has consumed marijuana because the drug can be detected in the blood for several weeks.

Rep. Sheryl M. Delozier (R-Cumberland) says that she will introduce a bill that make medical marijuana patients exempt from the current law, which states that no medical marijuana patient can operate an airplane, boat, or car. The law would only apply to those not driving while under the influence of marijuana.