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Pennsylvania Bill Receives Bipartisan Support for Patients to Grow Medical Cannabis

A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers—one a Democrat, the other a Republican—joined forces this week to put their support behind a bill that would permit medical cannabis patients in the state to cultivate their own cannabis plants at home.

The State Senators. Sharif Street, a Democrat, and Dan Laughlin, a Republican, said Wednesday that they will introduce legislation “in the near future”  to allow patients “to grow a limited number of cannabis plants from their home for personal use.”

The two legislators said that since the state’s medical marijuana law was established by a bill passed in 2016, the program “has offered lifesaving medicine to communities across the Commonwealth.”

“However, there are still inefficiencies around MMJ that are well known, especially as it relates to cost and access,” Street and Laughlin wrote in a memo circulated to other legislators in order to draw more cosponsors for the bill. “This year’s quarterly Pennsylvania MMJ Advisory board meeting revealed significant disparities in accessibility. PA Department of Health stated that dispensaries can be reached by patients who live in certain counties more than two hours away. For many Pennsylvanians, this is impossible. In addition, patients have also been vocal on the fiscal challenges around the rising costs of medicine and affordability.”

In a statement announcing his support for the bill on Wednesday, Laughlin’s office cited the Marijuana Policy Project in saying that “15 of the 19 states that have legalized adult-use cannabis and about half of the medical cannabis states allow for personal cultivation.”

“In the states that have reasonable safeguards—such as limiting the number of plants per household and requiring plants to be secure and out of the public view—home cultivation of cannabis simply hasn’t been a problem,” Laughlin’s statement said. “No state has repealed home cultivation, and there has never been a serious push to do so.”

Laughlin, who said earlier this year that he is mulling a gubernatorial run in 2022, said that it “is critical that policy meet people where they are, and by allowing medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis plants at home, we can help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine.”

“This legislation would go a long way towards helping everyday Pennsylvanians meet their health needs and ensuring everyone is treated equitably and fairly under [the state’s medical marijuana law,” Laughlin said.

Street is a Philadelphian who supports marijuana advocacy. (His Twitter bio contains a call to “legalize cannabis.”) 

He introduced a bill last month (SB 473), to allow adults to legally use recreational pot.

In announcing the bill, Street called legalization “an issue whose time has come,” and described prohibition as “an expensive failure of public policy which has criminalized patients, personal freedoms and impacted generations in a failed war on drugs that continues to burden taxpayers with growing costs to our criminal justice system.” 

“This bill makes both moral and fiscal sense and prioritizes the people of Pennsylvania,” Street said in a statement at the time.

“After almost a year of working with Senator Street, advocacy groups and constituents we have introduced SB 473, which we believe is the best option to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania,” Laughlin said in his own statement last month. “Through bi-partisan support, Senator Street and I believe that we have found a way to get this important legislation to the finish line. With most of the surrounding states passing legalization bills, it’s time to act now before we lose revenue due to border bleed. While the increase in revenue could raise around a billion dollars a year, the most important thing to me is that the industry will create thousands of family sustaining jobs that we so desperately need.”