Steering Public Trust and Politicians Towards Senate Bill 528
It’s still illegal to smoke marijuana in Pennsylvania, for medical or recreational purposes. Although medical marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania it’s a long road to getting recreational marijuana legalized.
First Stop: Bureau of Medical Marijuana Research
Convincing the public and politicians that recreational marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol is the first challenge. In order do that, there must be facts and evidence to support the claim. Fortunately, medical marijuana advocacy groups have been working for decades to compile evidence, and that evidence helped support the passage of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act. The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act is geared to accelerate recreational marijuana down the road to passage.
Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act provides legal avenues for research on medical marijuana. It also provides state funding for research. The Act creates an advisory board to review the first two years of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, a research program for hospitals and other facilities to use marijuana in clinical studies, legal avenues for medical schools to study marijuana, and the funds collected from medical marijuana businesses will help fund future medical marijuana research.
Advocates of recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania should pay close attention to the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Research created by the Department of Health. That Bureau holds the advisory board that will give the green light to opening medical marijuana laws to allow new forms of marijuana, more marijuana business, and allow medical marijuana to treat more diseases. The advisory board is required by law to consider public opinion that is submitted in writing. Proponents of recreational marijuana should work closely with medical marijuana businesses and health care providers to keep recreational marijuana on the road to passage.
The Classic Drive from Medical Marijuana to Recreational Marijuana
It took Colorado 12 years from the time it passed the law to allow medical marijuana (2000) before legal marijuana was approved by voters (2012). Washington state made medical marijuana legal in 1998, and legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the same year as Colorado. Oregon took a little longer, though they were the first state to decriminalize marijuana. Oregon’s medical marijuana laws started in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2014 that recreational marijuana became legal.
Alaska has considered marijuana grown at home legal since 1972, when its Supreme Court declared home-grown marijuana plants were covered under the Right to Privacy. They legalized medical marijuana in 1998 (26 years later), and recreational marijuana in 2014. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996, but they still have not legalized recreational marijuana. Washington D.C. was (is) odd. They legalized marijuana in 2014, and have been working on the details of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana since then.
Though it took over a decade for state laws to progress to take the turn from medical marijuana to recreational marijuana, that doesn’t mean it will take that long for Pennsylvania. The road to change almost always involves a slow start. People start accepting change when the previously unusual becomes familiar, and when fears and presumed risks are lowered. That is the stage Pennsylvania is entering.
Diner Stop: Talk to People and Send Postcards about Marijuana
Twenty-four states (plus Washington D.C.) have now made medical marijuana legal, which means Pennsylvania isn’t alone. As more people see marijuana a part of daily life and helping others, fears will be reduced, momentum will build, and evidence will grow. The sought-after change will begin to look safer, and more inviting. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has to also wait for politicians. It can take years for a bill to be introduced, debated, and shifted through the legislative process.
How far Pennsylvania will go with its marijuana laws will depend on advocacy, research, and the political environment. Presidents in the past have encouraged and fought marijuana laws, leading to discouraging shifts from legal to illegal, and vice-versa. Individual court cases and Supreme Court decisions could force sharp turns at any time.
Those individuals that want to see full marijuana legalization down the road must stay involved and continue to educate the public to reduce fears. They must also write to policy influencers and decision makers asking them to remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug and support recreational marijuana laws. The political climate must also be fueled to support legalization of recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. Collective action based on evidence and research will make it happen.
It will be years before recreational marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but it may happen in as little as five years, or even sooner if the momentum keeps the gears turning.
Help the Stalling Senate Bill 528
Senate Bill 528 has been written in an effort to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s sponsored by Senators Daylin Leach and Lawrence Farnese Jr., both sponsors of SB3, Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Bill that finally passed.
Senate Bill 528 was sent to the Law and Justice committee back in February of 2015. It stalled, and was left in park so the Medical Marijuana Act could be steered into Pennsylvania’s law books. Senate Bill 538 needs to get back on the road if Pennsylvania wants to reach full marijuana legalization. Pennsylvania’s advocates from Norml and the Marijuana Policy Project will help, but politicians will likely keep putting the bill back in the garage to sit, thinking it’s a bill too dangerous to drive forward.
Don’t Get Any Tickets
Lines are being drawn between legal and illegal marijuana activities. If you have any medical or recreational marijuana legal questions, a pending court case or an interest in a medical marijuana business, contact a lawyer who is well versed in new marijuana laws in Pennsylvania.
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