A Republican Pennsylvania senator on Friday announced that he will soon be introducing a bill to allow medical marijuana patients in the state to buy cannabis edibles at dispensaries.
Sen. Dan Laughlin (R) is circulating a co-sponsorship memo to build support for the proposal, which he said will bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that have legalized medical marijuana by allowing access to the products and instituting restrictions on packaging and labeling.
“Pennsylvania’s patients should be able to buy edible medical cannabis that is safe, uniform and securely packaged and labeled, just as they do in 25 other states that have legalized medical cannabis,” the senator, who has also sponsored legislation to legalize marijuana for adult use and allow patients to cultivate cannabis for personal use, said in a press release.
“For many patients, their medical conditions require gradual relief over an extended period of time,” Laughlin said. “Consuming medical cannabis in edible form is among the best ways to achieve the time-release effect that these patients need.”
The senator’s memo to colleagues stresses that the bill will take specific steps to ensure that cannabis edibles are “tested for consistency/potency and designed in a way that does not appeal to children.”
As it stands, registered medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania are permitted to purchase pills, oils, topicals and dry leaf cannabis that can be vaporized but not smoked. Patients can use those products to create their own edibles, but the sponsor said it’s important to give those individuals quality-tested options as well.
“Edibles produced by one of Pennsylvania’s licensed grower/processors and tested by one of our approved laboratories would be uniform in their THC distribution and potency, as well as clearly labeled and stored in child-proof containers,” the memo says.
He added in a press release that “edibles offer an easy and appropriate way to get relief from their medical conditions, and that’s always been the goal of medical cannabis: providing relief to patients.”
Meanwhile, a key Pennsylvania Senate committee held the last of three scheduled hearings on marijuana legalization last month, taking testimony that’s designed to help inform a forthcoming reform bill that the panel’s chairman is actively drafting.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee meeting involved testimony from cannabis reform advocates, former regulators from other states and industry stakeholders.
Sen. Mike Regan (R), who chairs the panel, circulated a cosponsorship memo last year along with Rep. Amen Brown (D) to build support for the reform, and these meetings are designed to give lawmakers added context into the best approach to legalization for the state.
At an initial hearing in February, much of the discussion focused on whether creating a regulated market would be sufficient to eliminate illicit sales, how police would be affected and the impact on impaired driving.
The second hearing held in late February centered on varying tax structures and other regulatory approaches that have been created in states like Illinois and California.
While reform bills have been introduced in past sessions and the policy change has the support of Gov. Tom Wolf (D), the series of hearings marked the first times a legislative panel had debated recreational legalization in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Pennsylvania lawmakers could also take up more modest marijuana reform proposals like a bill filed late last year to expand the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.
Additionally, another pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)—formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing last year.
Philadelphia voters also approved a referendum on marijuana legalization in November that adds a section to the city charter saying that “the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes.”
Wolf, the governor, said last year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.
The governor, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate this year, said one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment through an expedited petition program.
A survey from Franklin & Marshall College released last year found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.
An attempt to provide protections for Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients from being charged with driving under the influence was derailed in the legislature last year, apparently due to pushback by the state police association.
As federal marijuana banking reform continues to stall in Congress, a Pennsylvania Senate committee approved a bipartisan bill late last month to safeguard banks and insurers against being penalized by state regulators for working with state-legal medical marijuana businesses.
Meanwhile, a bill meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms for certain mental health conditions may be in jeopardy, with the sponsor saying recently that the chair of a key House committee is expressing reservations even after the legislation was amended in an effort to build support.