Though one day it may be called the Key-stoned state, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bills introduced in the 2011-12 General Assembly seem doomed to die. Senate Bill (SB) 1003 was introduced on April 25 by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th District), while House Bill (HB) 1653 was introduced on June 13 by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-202nd District). SB 1003 is currently in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and HB 1653 was voted out of the Health committee and moved into the Human Services committee on June 23.


Derek Rosenzweig, Secretary of PhillyNORML, explained to HIGH TIMES, “The difference between the bills is that HB 1653 includes restrictions that SB1003 does not; one dispensary per 250,000 residents (not patients), patients may only purchase three ounces every two weeks from dispensaries. HB 1653 has anti-discriminatory regulations. Lastly, it mandates that the health department monitor contamination and potency of medical marijuana. SB 1003 is identical – aside from the name change – to last session's HB 1393 and SB 1350, both of which died in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.”


Both current bills are named for the former governor of Pennsylvania, the late Raymond P. Shafer, the moderate Republican who recommended to President Nixon that marijuana should not be placed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 and pot should be decriminalized. Shafer’s sane suggestions were promptly disregarded and he was eventually marginalized from an increasingly rightist GOP.


Unfortunately, Rosenzweig wasn’t very optimistic about either bill’s passage in the current political landscape, as neither the Republicans running the state Senate and House or Governor Tom Corbett have indicated any interest in holding hearings or votes on the medicinal marijuana issue.


Rosenzweig said they may know more about the bills’ fates toward the end of August or mid-September but, he admitted, “most likely nothing will happen unless a serious and large surge of people across the state start working on this issue. The Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use Act is a well thought out bill that addresses many issues faced in states which have legalized medical marijuana. Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate have been consistent in their denial that marijuana is medicine, in the scientific and anecdotal evidence, and in the will of the people. Medical marijuana will not be a reality in Pennsylvania until elected Republican officials sign on as co-sponsors or otherwise publicly state their support. Pennsylvania’s a huge state. It's up to the constituents of these elected officials to voice their opinion and not take 'no' for an answer.”