Medical marijuana legislation swiftly passed a committee Tuesday on its way to the full Senate, but the real challenge will be in the House.
“If I can do a good enough job of educating, I believe I have a shot,” said Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, after the State Government Committee voted 10-0 on an amended bill that would legalize cannabis for some medical treatments.
In addition to serving as one of the primary sponsors of Senate Bill 3, Folmer chairs the committee. It was nearly assured passage there and will likely pass the Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate. It’s the House, where a similar bill failed to make it to a vote last year, that presents a possible roadblock.
To that end, the sponsors crafted an amendment designed to address some of the concerns raised by House Republicans. The bill now features a stricter definition of the kind of medical practitioner who can recommend treatment with cannabis and a real-time monitoring system that tracks the product from cultivation through distribution to patients.
There’s an urgency to pushing the bill forward this year, as Folmer said he’s focused on building momentum.
“I got to get it,” he said. “This is about lives, here.”
And Folmer and fellow sponsor Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, are not the only ones working to bring their colleagues in the House around on medical marijuana.
On Tuesday, a number of potential patients and their families showed up at the committee meeting to voice their support. They have set up meetings with lawmakers, held press conferences and even retained the services of a lobbylist pro-bono to back their cause.
“Any steps forward are at least steps forward,” said Dana Ulrich, whose 7-year-old daughter Lorelei suffers from as many as 700 seizures a day. “Our real focus is on the House.”
LISTEN: Hear a recent interview with medical marijuana advocate Dana Ulrich via PennLive’s Keystone Q&A podcast on iTunes or by streaming it at the bottom of this article or on SoundCloud.
Dana Ulrich with her daughter, Lorelei.Provided photo
Ulrich said the amendments made Tuesday aren’t perfect. She’d like to see more illnesses covered by the bill and the ability to administer cannabis via vaporization for patients who can’t swallow or are irritated by smoke.
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