Medical marijuana bill’s afterglow may be short lived

    Mama bears Christine Brann (left) of Hummelstown and Angela Sharrer of New Oxford applaud lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Capitol after the state House of Representatives voted to send medical marijuana legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk. They each  have a child who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy that they believe can be helped by a marijuana oil extract that is soon to be legal in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

    Mama bears Christine Brann (left) of Hummelstown and Angela Sharrer of New Oxford applaud lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Capitol after the state House of Representatives voted to send medical marijuana legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk. They each have a child who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy that they believe can be helped by a marijuana oil extract that is soon to be legal in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

    Supporters of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill signed into law Sunday touted the bipartisanship that marked its passage, but even during their victory lap there were signs that the warm fuzzies may be short lived.

    Gov. Tom Wolf joined advocates and Lebanon County lawmakers on Monday to celebrate the measure’s enactment. For state lawmakers, it is a rare moment of pride after a year in which the state legislature has been an object of derision over the months-long budget gridlock.

    “I totally call this a nonpartisan victory,” said Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, speaking about the medical marijuana bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate. “I’m hoping there’s going to be more opportunities to do this.”

    But the kumbaya moment will be tough to replicate. Wolf himself didn’t sound optimistic that any political lessons of the medical marijuana bill might be applied to budget negotiations.

    “That’s going to be really tough,” said Wolf. “We’ll give it a try.”

    And as other lawmakers have pointed out, the unrelenting push for the medical marijuana bill came from a sympathetic group of citizen lobbyists led by mothers of sick children.

    “These folks that I would call the ‘mama bears’ … were the best lobbyists I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” said Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon.

    Remnants of last year’s budget fight remain unfinished. A whole new negotiation looms for the fiscal year starting in July. And on taxes and spending matters, no group of mama bears stands ready to persuade lawmakers to come together.

    At one point during Monday’s press conference, Diamond turned to Wolf, the Democratic governor who had been an early ally of medical marijuana supporters and a fierce critic of Republicans during budget talks.

    “We disagree a lot,” Diamond said.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.