Calling the issue the biggest policy change in a decade, Senator Mike Folmer (R-48) said the amendments to Senate Bill 3, the legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis, and its subsequent passage by the Senate are vital to ensure the workability and ease of access for those who need these life-saving treatments.

“This issue is too important and too many people are depending on the General Assembly – we need to be sure we get it right,” Senator Folmer said. “A number of issues were raised with the legislation when it returned to the Senate that called into question whether medical cannabis can reasonably become a reality in our Commonwealth.”

Folmer first introduced legislation to allow medical cannabis in Pennsylvania in January 2014.  The Senate has now overwhelmingly passed three bills – the most recent an amended Senate Bill 3, 42-7, which addresses a number of concerns that had been raised with its ability to help patients quickly after it’s signed into law.

“We weren’t trying to pass a perfect bill but rather we wanted a bill that is at the very least workable.”

The concerns the Senate addressed include:

  • Ensuring dispensaries are clearly authorized to operate
  • Establishing a clear certification renewal process, which is critical for patients after 60-days
  • Providing free background checks for caregivers
  • Strengthening oversight – including background checks for employees of medical marijuana organizations, stronger seed-to-sale tracking, and stronger seed-to-sale tracking for storage and new tracking requirements for transportation
  • Clarifying required distances between dispensaries and schools and daycare centers, which is especially important in urban areas like Philadelphia – the amended SB 3 provides a dispensary waiver for cities like Philadelphia where 1,000 foot restrictions would otherwise preclude dispensaries in these urban areas
  • Clarifying the term “registration,” which had been used for multiple purposes and entities – the amended SB 3 makes it clear practitioners are “registered,” medical marijuana organizations receive a “permit,” and identification cards for patients and caregivers are “certified” by the Department of Health
  • Clarifying the certification of medical marijuana identification cards – while maintaining safeguards to protect against fraud
  • Making a number of other technical changes to ensure SB 3 will work as law – including reorganizing the bill to make it easier to implement without delay

“I’m pleased so many have joined our years-long struggle to make medicinal uses for marijuana a reality,” said Senator Folmer.  “The Senate worked to ensure SB 3 will provide families with the ability to have real access to this medicine.  Taking a little more time and effort to make sure the bill was effective will not cause any delays in getting this treatment to the people who need it most.  The Senate vote will better help to get this much needed and long overdue medicine in people’s hands.”

Folmer also thanked his leadership for their ongoing and unwavering support to bring medical cannabis to Pennsylvania in a timely and effective manner:  “Without the leadership of Senator Corman and the support of Senator Scarnati, we would not be on the verge of giving one more arrow in the quivers of patients with debilitating diseases and medical conditions.  The Senate acted quickly but deliberately to get it right.”

Contact: Fred Sembach
Fallon Binner