House passes medical marijuana bill

Bill features recommendations from 2015 task force of which Petrarca was part

HARRISBURG, March 16 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today approved legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, supported S.B. 3 and helped steer the measure through the House during three days of debate before the final vote. This was the first time the House passed such a bill despite the Senate overwhelmingly approving similar proposals in the past two legislative sessions. The House-amended version of the bill would strictly regulate the use of medical marijuana.

Petrarca was part of a bipartisan task force that met last summer and fall to craft an effective medical marijuana bill that could be supported by a House majority. The legislation passed today contains changes suggested by that task force.

"The task force debated the issue and looked at what was done in other states," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We saw things that worked and things that didn't work. We looked at medical marijuana as a tool for doctors to help people.

"Parents want to help their children, and doctors want to help their patients, and medical marijuana can do that. I'm pleased we were able to draft legislation that would give Pennsylvanians another option in palliative care -- one that doesn't result in overdose and death -- while at the same time tailoring its use to ensure it is used only for specific medical situations," he said.

"If we can help those suffering from debilitating conditions for which, in some cases, there is no other option for relief, then we need to do all we can to make this option available in Pennsylvania."

A recent poll showed that nearly 90 percent of Pennsylvanians support the use of medical marijuana, and 76 percent of doctors nationally support the cause.

The legalization also has strong backing from Gov. Tom Wolf.

The amended bill returns to the state Senate for consideration of House amendments before it can move to Wolf’s desk.