Concerns about medical marijuana in the provisions of a House bill may cause the Senate to delay allowing Pennsylvania patients access. (Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press file)

Medical marijuana questions could put a hurt on Pennsylvania patients

Some key Senate backers of medical marijuana legalization are expressing concern about a marijuana bill passed by the House last week, raising the possibility of a delay in getting the drug into the hands of Pennsylvania patients suffering from conditions like cancer and epilepsy.

Senate staff and lawyers found what they say are numerous flaws in the legislation passed by the House last week. Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, who sponsored the initial bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate last year, might press for changes and another vote by both chambers instead of agreeing to the House version and sending it to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.

“This would be like giving a child a toy at Christmas but then not giving a battery to make it work,” Folmer’s chief of staff, Fred Sembach, told in a story published Friday. “It’s too important to enact a bill into law that may not work.”

The House voted 149-43 for legislation that would set standards for growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take the drug in pill, oil or liquid form, but would not be able to obtain marijuana they could smoke.

The bill would allow people to buy marijuana from a dispensary after they have been certified by a medical practitioner to have one of the 17 enumerated conditions. Those conditions include cancer, epilepsy, autism, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and chronic or intractable pain. Under the proposal, the state would license up to 25 growers and processors, and as many as 50 dispensaries, which could each operate three locations.

Folmer’s staff flagged what it said was imprecise language about the regulation of marijuana growers, processors and dispensers.

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, the bill’s cosponsor, said the House version would require that no marijuana dispensary operate within 1,000 feet of a school in Philadelphia. That would make it difficult to open one in Center City, he said.

But Leach wants the Senate to accept the House bill and iron out any flaws through the courts and regulatory process.

“If we send it back to the House, we may never see it again,” he said.

Wolf’s spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said the governor “was ready to sign the House bill and had hoped it would pass quickly through the Senate.”

Advocates had celebrated in the Capitol last week after several years of going from door to door seeking support among lawmakers. Many are the parents of children who have lost their ability to function intellectually at their age level because of the severe seizures they suffer daily.

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