After years of waiting and numerous amendments to Senate Bill 3 (“SB3”) Pennsylvania is one step away from legalizing medical marijuana. SB3 was approved by the Senate last May by a 40-7 vote. Earlier this year, the House significantly amended SB3 and approved the amended SB3 by 149-43 vote. The amended SB3 was then sent to the Senate for review and approval. On April 12, 2016, the Pennsylvania Senate again amended SB3 and voted 42-7 in favor of the latest version of SB3.
The Senate had some concerns with the House amendments to SB3. Specifically, the Senate was concerned with the House amendment prohibiting the location of medical marijuana dispensers within 1000 feet of schools and daycares. Not a major problem in rural parts of the State but likely to create patient access problems within Pennsylvania’s bigger cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Senate amended SB3 to allow the Department of Health to grant a waiver of the prohibition if it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the waiver is necessary to provide adequate access to patients. A waiver may include additional security, physical plant of a facility or other conditions necessary to protect children. The Senate also removed a provision allowing growers and dispensers to circumvent the 1000 foot prohibition if the proposed location was located in the tax free Keystone Opportunity Zone.
The latest amended version of SB3 was referred back to the House for approval who overwhelmingly approved the SB3 by a 149-46 vote on April 13, 2016. SB3 was immediately presented to Governor Wolf for his signature. Governor Wolf has repeatedly said the he would sign a medical marijuana law and barring any unforeseen issues, Governor Wolf will sign into law Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act making Pennsylvania the 24th state along with Guam and the District of Columbia to enact a medical marijuana program.