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5 ways PA’s marijuana laws could change in 2023 Spotlight PA

Spotlight PA Independent, nonpartisan newsroom operated by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletter.

HARRISBURG — As the legislative session begins, Pennsylvania legislators voted against the state’s cannabis laws to expand coverage of medical marijuana cards and increase patient drunk driving protection, among other proposals. I am considering changing.

And a new Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives brings new hope to supporters who want Pennsylvania to join dozens of other states where possession of small amounts of cannabis is legal or decriminalized. I’m here.

Amendments to marijuana laws could open up debate on many other issues. Some of them were highlighted in a series of Spotlight PA investigative articles that uncovered serious flaws in health care programs. Contains questionable health claims, weak supervision and unfair regulationsHere are five marijuana proposals to monitor this legislative session.

Medical program review

Two state senators, Republicans and Democrats push for big change This expands the reach of medical marijuana cards.

Currently, legislation limits the number of patients and doctors who can participate. In order for the doctor to register with the state and approve patients, he must complete a four-hour training course. Also, patients are only eligible for the card if they have one of 23 approved conditions.

State Senators Mike Regan (Republic, York) and James Brewster (D, Allegheny) proposed that “elected officials and bureaucrats should determine the diseases that qualify individuals to use medical marijuana. not,” he said. Their proposal would allow physicians authorized to prescribe controlled substances to decide whether their patients can use cannabis.

Their proposal also eliminates the need to renew state-issued medical marijuana cards. The annual fee is $50, but the department says it has eliminated fees for people participating in certain financial hardship programs, such as Medicaid.

Regan and Brewster have not yet introduced the bill, and Brewster said there are still many issues that are up for debate. For example, the senator did not clarify in the memo whether patients must renew their certification at least once a year. We are asking the states to allow certification.

Separately, Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) wants to allow patients to buy cannabis. in edible formIn the final session, he and Senator Sharif Street (D, Philadelphia) also suggested allowing patients to grow. A Limited Number of Cannabis Plants at Home — The changes, multiple cannabis advocates told Spotlight PA, will reduce the cost burden for patients.

Judith Cassel, a Harrisburg attorney who specializes in cannabis issues, wants lawmakers to do away with the unfair advertising system.

State law prohibits advertising that doctors can approve patients for programs. This favors third-party businesses that offer to connect patients and doctors. These businesses operate with little or no oversight.

“Brokers with no medical experience are advertising and getting patients to sign up,” Cassel told Spotlight PA.

She said an unfair playing field robs doctors of their income, and the fees paid to these companies drive up costs for patients.

Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer

New York and New Jersey allow marijuana use by adults 21 and older. In the fall, voters in Maryland approved adult-use legalization on a ballot question, and now lawmakers are rolling out planned changes.


Across the country, 21 states have legalized cannabis for adult use, and another 10 have in some way “decriminalized” simple possession, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Most decriminalizing states impose civil fines to avoid the life-altering collateral consequences of a criminal record.” according to the group.

However, Pennsylvania residents can be criminally charged for possessing small amounts of marijuana. can be sentenced to up to 30 days in prison and a fine of up to $500.

Chris Goldstein, regional organizer of the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform, said, “We want the arrests to stop first.” “They stopped all over the country. But Pennsylvania is pushing crime bans almost unabated.”

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and several other municipalities Reduce own possession penaltyHowever, no decriminalization bill has made progress in the state legislature in recent years, Goldstein said.

One of the bipartisan bills in the last session of the Senate would have reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense, reduced the maximum fine for possession to $25, and eliminated the prison sentence for the offense. Smoking small amounts of marijuana in public can result in fines of up to $100.I didn’t receive my bill Vote in committee. Decriminalization laws will be reintroduced at this session.

DUI protection

Pennsylvania is one of 12 states with zero-tolerance laws that prohibit driving with marijuana in the body. According to the National Congress of State LegislaturesPennsylvania drivers can be criminally liable if they have marijuana or its metabolites in their blood “regardless of amount,” even if they are registered as medical marijuana patients.

“Thus, patients without disabilities are now at risk of arrest, prosecution and conviction for medical marijuana use unrelated to their ability to drive,” says Kamera Bartolotta. The Senator (Republican, Washington) wrote in the memo. to her colleague.

Bartolotta’s proposal would require evidence of actual impairment as a basis for a DUI conviction in such cases. In its last session, the bill passed the committee without opposition, but did not receive a Senate-wide vote. “But we are optimistic that we can move forward.”

Labor regulations

Last year’s Spotlight PA study showed how gray areas in state medical marijuana laws create unnecessary confusion and force workers to choose between work and doctor-approved drugsNeighboring states such as Delaware, New Jersey and New York have increased protections for workers.

A proposal from the last session would impose certain restrictions on people working in some newly defined safety-sensitive positions, such as firefighters, pharmacists, and those directly caring for patients and children. The bill passed a Senate committee with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against.

A new version of the bill has not yet been introduced, but the issue remains a priority for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.

“Concerns remain,” Alex Halper, the chamber’s vice president for government affairs, told Spotlight PA. “The current medical cannabis law is ambiguous. It is unclear and puts employers, employees and job seekers in a difficult position.”


New York and New Jersey allow marijuana use by adults 21 and older.In the fall, Maryland voters approved adult-use legalization on a ballot question, and now lawmakers are rolling out Planned change in.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has called for the legalization of marijuana for adults. Two Republican senators have come out in favor of legalization. But Senate Speaker Pro Tempoa Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said in November that the federal government needs to lift its ban before it wants to talk about legalizing recreational marijuana. said he would.

Since the new session began, there has been little movement in Congress as Republicans and Democrats battle it out. Management of the State CapitolDemocrats won a narrow majority in the state legislature Three wins in Tuesday’s special election.

More Democrats than Republicans support cannabis legalization. But it’s not clear if there will be enough votes to pass adult-only legalization. Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party for the state House of Representatives, told Spotlight PA that the caucus “is committed to ensuring job protection for medical marijuana cardholders and to addressing DUI penalties. I support improving the law,” he said.

“The expansion of the adult-use marijuana industry must not only emphasize health and safety, social justice and equity, but also support the industry workforce,” Reigelman said in an email.

Patrick Nightingale, attorney and executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform, hopes the change in power will get the cannabis bill to at least get a committee hearing in Harrisburg. is. they appointed committee chairs, but if their leadership didn’t want to move something through the committee, they didn’t,” Nightingale told his Spotlight PA. “That barrier is no longer there.”

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/02/pa-medical-marijuana-card-rules-changes-legalization/ 5 ways PA’s marijuana laws could change in 2023 Spotlight PA

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