Cox, Gainey to reintroduce medical marijuana bill
HARRISBURG, Jan. 9 – State Reps. Jim Cox, R-Berks and Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, plan to reintroduce legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

The legislation would allow Pennsylvania doctors to recommend medicinal cannabis to patients who would medically benefit from such a treatment. There are 21 states and the District of Columbia with similar laws.

Both legislators introduced similar bills in the 2013-14 legislative session with bipartisan support. The current measure is identical to legislation that passed the Senate 43-7 in September, but which never received a vote by the House.

"The Senate-passed bill represented months of hearings, discussions, changes, and compromises with one goal in mind: helping those with medical challenges – especially children with seizure disorders – to benefit from a medicinal strain of cannabis," Cox said. "Some children suffer hundreds of seizures a day, making normal childhood development impossible and forcing parents to helplessly watch their children suffer."

He said prescribed narcotic cocktails of highly addictive and dangerous drugs have little effect on these disorders and often provide only a few weeks or months of pause in the decline of a child’s health.

"It is cruel and irrational to deny people medicine to alleviate their suffering – especially when we routinely prescribe far more addictive, powerful, and toxic medications for the same conditions," Gainey said.

The lawmakers said the emphasis of this legislative effort has focused on a strain of cannabis very high in cannabidiols, compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and very low in tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Called "Charlotte’s Web," this strain has been used to treat disorders with dramatic results that are rapid, non-intoxicating, and free of side effects for children using this medicine.

The legislation would allow patients who have a recommendation from their doctor to purchase and use medical cannabis from centers licensed by a new State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing. The entire process would be regulated by licensing: medical cannabis growers, processors and dispensers.

In addition to promulgating regulations, the board would also be empowered to adopt a schedule of civil penalties for operating without a current license or occupation permit or for other violations. The board would have the power to revoke licenses for violations, refusing to adhere to an order of the board, or for conviction of a criminal offense. The board would also be able to issue cease and desist orders, order restitution, or issue a letter of reprimand or censures.

Prohibitions in the legislation include:

• No one could smoke medical cannabis;
• No one could undertake any task under the influence if it would constitute negligence or professional malpractice;
• No one could operate or drive a motor vehicle, aircraft, motor boat, or heavy machinery with more than 10 nanograms of THC in their system.

Gainey said he also supports more comprehensive language to be amended into the bill, but this legislation is a good starting point because it has broader support from members of both parties in both chambers.

"However, broadening this language only seeks to give more options to more patients: inclusion of more qualifying medical conditions, different strains of medical cannabis and delivery methods for treatment is the humane, compassionate thing to do. If we do this with synthetic opioids/opiates and other narcotics for treating medical conditions, why should medical cannabis be treated differently?" Gainey asked.

State Rep. Ed Gainey

State Rep. Jim Cox

CONTACT: Tom Andrews
House Democratic Communications Office
Phone: 717-787-7895
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