Can marijuana’s expansion be stopped? The answer at the state level looks to be a resounding “No!”
Since California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes two decades prior, a grand total of 23 states have legalized its medical use, with the latest being New York. It now appears that the 24th state to legalize marijuana could be right around the corner.
Say hello to the 24th medical marijuana state?
Earlier this month the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 3, which seeks to legalize medical marijuana in liquid, pill, and oil formulations, by a vote of 149-43. Senate Bill 3 was passed by the Pennsylvania Senate in May 2015 by a vote of 40-7, but the House vote wound up passing the bill with more than 200 amendments to the original bill.
The primary change involved the number of ailments that medical marijuana would be approved to treat. The bill approved by the House earlier this month narrowed down marijuana’s potential prescription scope to just over a dozen ailments, including epilepsy, glaucoma, and cancer, three of the most common treatments marijuana is aiming to treat , as well as HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The next step in the process involves the Pennsylvania Senate once again passing Senate Bill 3. Should the Senate indeed vote in favor Senate Bill 3, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf needs only to sign the bill to make it a law — and he’s previously stated that if the bill reached his desk he would do exactly that.
The importance of another possible marijuana approval
Like other medical-marijuana initiatives, Pennsylvania’s law would seek to put some limitations on the number of growers and dispensaries within the state and would generate tax revenue and licensing fees along the way. The House aimed to establish a limit of 25 growers and up to 50 dispensaries (and each dispensary could have up to three locations), and the growers-processors would pay a 5% tax on gross receipts from dispensaries. Although no tax and fee revenue estimates are available, the important thing worth noting is that this additional revenue could go to fund education, law enforcement, and additional clinical research.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen lawmakers bypassing the typical process of bringing an issue to vote with the residents of a state. Lawmakers in Vermont have been contemplating bypassing traditional voting measures and legalizing recreational marijuana in the state legislature. Of course, it remains to be seen if Vermont’s lawmakers have enough support to pass a recreational marijuana measure.
But one thing is for sure: Marijuana’s expansion is precisely what the American public, as a whole, wants to see. An October Gallup poll pegged national support of the drug at 58%, up dramatically from the 25% in favor of its legalization back in the mid-1990s. Other national polls suggest similar favorability. Approval as it relates to medical marijuana is even stronger in swing states and nationally. A CBS News survey conducted nationally last year showed a whopping 84% favorability toward medical marijuana.
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