5/26/2011 – State Senator Pat Vance (R-31) chairs the Public Health and Welfare Committee where the medical marijuana bill, SB 1003, has been assigned. And the bill may be staying right there. Senator Vance’s Chief of Staff, Amy Bolze, said that there is currently no intention to scheduling any public hearings. Further, she stated that there is no intention to bring the bill before the committee for a vote.
This leaves SB 1003 in a state of suspended animation, where it could remain for the entire legislative session.
Senator Daylin Leach, the main sponsor of SB 1003, described it as “… a common-sense bill that would simply give sick people access to medication so they feel better.”
When the bill was introduced in April Leach said, ”Countless studies show marijuana can alleviate the side effects of many diseases. It’s time we give Pennsylvanians access to the treatment they need and deserve.”
Two hearings were held before the House Health and Human Services Committee in 2009 and 2010. Senator Vance has stated that she felt those hearings had garnered enough public comment regarding the issue.
During those House hearings most of the testimony favored passage of a medical cannabis law. Doctors, religious leaders, medical experts and seriously ill residents made a compelling case for the bill.
Dr. Harry Swidler, an Emergency Medicine physician testified: “Marijuana is non-addicting. There is no physical dependence or physical withdrawal associated with its use. It is, from a practical standpoint, non-toxic. Marijuana is safer by some measures than any other drug. There is simply no known quantity of marijuana capable of killing a person.”
A Franklin & Marshall poll in 2010 indicated that 81 percent of Pennsylvania residents support having legalized access to marijuana for qualifying residents. Over 40 percent of the respondents in that poll described themselves as “conservative.”
There have been no Republican co-sponsors to the medical marijuana bill in either the Senate or the House, despite the notably strong support among voters.
Bolze said that Senator Vance’s office does receive regular communications via phone and email from residents who support the bill. But it seems unlikely that Vance will consider the issue before the Health and Welfare Committee unless her peers in the Senate show more interest.
Representative Mark B. Cohen originally introduced the medical marijuana bill to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Cohen’s office reported today that a co-sponsorship memorandum has been released. The bill is expected to be re-introduced in the House this summer.
Follow PA medical marijuana at www.pa4mmj.org
Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? [email protected]