The war on drugs lost another battle as Pennsylvania will become the 24th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes on Wednesday.
The bill will be signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf, a longtime supporter of the initiative, and is hailed as “a bipartisan effort” that has “overcome years of obstacles,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Some legislators were persuaded in favor of legalization by the plight of families. After “reading about the struggles of families the drug would help, I came to realize that it is wrong to withhold something that could benefit so many,” House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) told the Inquirer.
Advocates of medical marijuana claim its use can benefit patients who suffer from epilepsy and other diseases. The law legalizes medical use for “cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, seizures, and other conditions.” Smoking it, however, is not a legalized use. Marijuana pills, oils, or ointments are the accepted forms. The department of health will create an advisory board and spur dispensaries statewide, though it could take more than a year for patients to gain access to medical marijuana.
“Legal access to medical marijuana is going to benefit tens of thousands of seriously ill patients in Pennsylvania,” Becky Dansky, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “For some, it’s the best treatment option. For others, it’s the only treatment option.”
In November, legalization advocates hope to expand beyond Pennsylvania. The MPP is supporting a ballot initiative for medical marijuana in Ohio and full legalization to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.
Ohio failed to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2015, which would have made it the first state to legalize it and codify a weed oligopoly. State legislators, however, have pledged to legalize medical marijuana by summer, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberg (R-Clarksville) called the MPP’s ballot initiative “irresponsible.” Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), however, cautioned that “it’s impossible to say at this point” what medical marijuana from the legislature would look like, or when it’d be ready.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center found that 73 percent of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana. Only 32 percent of Americans supported legalization of recreational marijuana in 2006, but by 2015, support climbed to 53 percent. With the Department of Justice resigning itself to a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that upheld a prohibition on the DOJ “from interfering with state laws allowing medical use of marijuana,” marijuana legalization for medical and recreational use has gained wider acceptance in public opinion and law.