What’s Going on with the PA Medical Marijuana Bill?
A: A whole ‘lotta nothing.
Which is, unfortunately, what we expected. Since we last looked into this bill, rounding up a great Q&A with Sen. Larry Farnese (a co-sponsor of the legislation, Senate Bill 1003), briefly speaking with Montgomery County’s progressive Senator Daylin Leach and putting out an epic Matt Petrillo vid, there’s been little mention of the legislation in media and mostly crickets from Harrisburg. Because no one’s doing anything about it.
As for some background, SB 1003 is basically mirror legislation to House Bill 1393, proposed to the legislature in 2010, debated thoroughly, and never voted on. When we talked with Sen. Farnese on April 28, he told us, “If nothing else this issue deserves debate. So it should not be held up in committee, shouldn’t be tabled, it should come to the forefront and everybody in the general assembly, in the House and the Senate, should have an opportunity to vote for what their constituents want. That’s what politics is about and that’s what democracy’s about.” At that point the bill had already been referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee. So, you gotta assume something — anything, really — has been going on since then. After all, there’ve been multiple rallies across the state promoting the bill and cause, including one awesome march down South Street on May 21. But, nope.
Speaking to Sen. Farnese’s office this week, his press secretary Cathie Abookire (possibly the nicest woman affiliated with Pennsylvania politics), told us, “The last action for the bill is that it was referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee April 25, 2011.”
Jonathan Tew, at Sen. Leach’s office basically offered the same news: “No movement yet,” he wrote by email. “I know that advocates have been contacting Sen. Vance’s office requesting a hearing or a vote but so far we have not heard that either is in the works.”
Governor Tom Corbett has gone on record saying he’d veto any bill dealing with medical marijuana, even though he understands the benefits, because marijuana is a “gateway drug.”
We’ve also contacted Philadelphia State Sen. Shirley Kitchen’s office, who sits on the Public Health and Welfare Committee, and are waiting to hear back.
They’re dealing with the budget this week (which, uh, would be a great time to go forward with medical marijuana legislation, right?) so don’t expect to hear too much in the meantime. But we’ll keep you updated.
UPDATE: Freedom is Green says a version of the bill in the House was re-referred to the House Human Services Committee, which “means much better chances that public hearings and/or a committee vote will be be scheduled.”
Photo: Ryan Strand