On March 16, the Pennsylvania House is expected to vote on SB 3, compassionate medical cannabis legislation, 10 months after the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Please callyour state representative to urge a “yes” vote on this compassionate bill.
For months, Chairman Matt Baker refused to allow SB 3 out of the Health Committee, until June when under the threat of a discharge petition, he agreed to send the bill to the House Rules Committee. House Majority Leader David Reed (R), a supporter of medical cannabis, created a special working group to draft recommendations for a House bill. At the end of September, the working group sent its recommendations to Leader Reed. The Rules Committee advanced the bill to the floor on November 18, but more than 200 amendments were filed and it was not called to a vote.
On March 14 and 15, the full House finally began considering SB 3, starting with dozens of amendments. The House overwhelmingly approved a rewrite of the measure that was sponsored by Chairman Ron Marsico, along with amendments to remove an arbitrary cap on THC and to allow patients with autism and sickle cell anemia to qualify. Most of the hostile amendments were voted down.
Based on the votes, we are very optimistic that the House will approve the bill on March 16. Then, it would return to the Senate for concurrence. Gov. Tom Wolf is a strong supporter and has said he would sign the bill.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Pennsylvania are 5.2 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. The two largest cities in Pennsylvania have led the charge on decriminalization by enacting decriminalization laws in the last two years.
On October 1, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed an ordinance decriminalizing marijuana in the City of Brotherly Love, making it the largest U.S. city to have done so. The ordinance removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a traffic ticket.
Under state law, however, an individual arrested for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to a maximum of 30 days in jail and fined up to $500.
On December 21, 2015, the Pittsburgh City Council voted to reduce the penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The mayor signed the law the following day. As of January 1, 2016, an individual found in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hash will face a fine of up to $100, instead of being charged with a misdemeanor.