Medical marijuana bill heads to Pa. House

(Ross D. Franklin/AP File Photo)

(Ross D. Franklin/AP File Photo)

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed in Pennsylvania’s Senate with overwhelming support and now heads to an uncertain future in the House.

The GOP House majority leader opposes the measure.

But one Republican in House leadership is on the record in favor of medical marijuana. And within the past week, Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, has scaled up his ambition for pushing the plan. It used to be a next-year priority. Now, Vereb is trying to send it to the governor within the next month.

Gov. Tom Corbett stands against medical marijuana legalization.

“The governor has put forth a plan and has directed the Department of Health to move forward with a pilot program to address the specific needs of children with severe seizure disorders,” said Corbett’s spokesman Jay Pagni.

But Vereb said he has the governor’s ear on drug policy.

“The governor’s office can say what they want to say,” said Vereb. “And all due respect to the governor’s staff, I’m going to go to the man who directly put me in charge of a drug task force back in the ’90s, and I’m going to sell to him what I think is the best and the right thing to do for us to get this to his desk.”

The Senate voted 43-7 to allow medical marijuana oil and liquid extracts, pills, and edibles to treat certain medical conditions. The approved products could not be smoked.

The vote followed forceful and at times emotional debate among senators, one of whom tearfully announced he would support the measure, despite his fears it will bring more problems to ill people and their families.

Some pointed to the rampant abuse of prescription drugs in Pennsylvania and said lawmakers could be setting up the state for another drug abuse epidemic.

Others pointed to the lack of research showing the efficacy of medical marijuana. Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said he doubts the product could be adequately regulated.

“There are too many warning signs here to ignore. This express train is going to take us places we are not going to like very much when we get there,” Smucker said. “Putting political philosophy ahead of medical research is a costly mistake and an unforced error. We should not do this.”

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