HARRISBURG, Pa. (May 13, 2015) – By a wide margin yesterday, the Pennsylvania state Senate passed a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes, effectively nullifying in practice the federal prohibition on the same. The vote was 40-7.

Introduced by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) with 27 bipartisan co-sponsors, Senate Bill 3 (SB3) would set up a program that allows a market – both for and non-profit – in the growth, production, commerce and use of marijuana for specified medical purposes, something federal law considers illegal.

SB3 passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 4 with a 21-4 vote. The bill previously passed through the Senate State Government Committee unanimously with a 10-0 vote on April 21. With a partisan makeup of 30 Republicans and 19 Democrats, the 40-7 vote in the Senate yesterday was significant.

“Whatever the motivation, this shows that both sides are willing to defy federal laws,” said Tenth Amendment Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey. “With enough pressure and support from the public, politicians on both sides of the aisle can be pushed to take actions that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.”

SB3 would create a State Board of Medical Cannabis Licensing program that would allow the growing and dispensing of medical marijuana by licensed individuals for use by qualifying patients. The board would be able to license up to 65 medical marijuana processors, 65 marijuana growers and 130 dispensaries around the state.

Unlike many other states, growers, processors and dispensers are expressly authorized to for-profit entities, something supporters say will help expand the market quickly. The bill also contains a reciprocity provision that would allow medical marijuana patients from other states to qualify under the Pennsylvania program.

Qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy and seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellara Ataxia (SCA), posttraumatic stress disorder, severe fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, and glaucoma. The legislation also includes a mechanism to expand the qualifying conditions beginning in 2017.


The federal government currently lists marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic and attempts to prohibit it for any purpose. Maharrey says this clearly violates the Constitution.

“The Constitution delegates no power to the federal government to prohibit marijuana in the states. This power remains with the state governments and the people. Doubt me? Then ask yourself why it required a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. There is no fundamental difference,” Maharrey said.

As more states take marijuana policy into their own hands, defying the federal prohibition, the federal government has become increasingly incapable of enforcing its unconstitutional prohibition. They simply lack the resources to stop the tidal wave. For those concerned about the health care and personal choices of people living in Pennsylvania, this cannot come too soon.

Although it draws a legal distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, SB3 marks an enormous step in the right direction for both medical marijuana supporters and advocates of decentralized government in the state of Pennsylvania. It signals that the public is ready to throw off the shackles of ‘federal supremacy’ and take lawmaking into their own hands.


While some opponents believe that marijuana has only proliferated in states because of support from the Obama administration, Maharrey suggests that nothing could be further from the truth.

“Bush was considered by advocates to be the most aggressive president in history, trying to stop marijuana programs in the states,” said Maharrey. “But in less than two full terms, Obama conducted more raids and spent more on enforcement than Bush and Bill Clinton combined.”

Statistics from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) suggest that costs-per-raid and costs-per-investigation far exceed the yearly DEA budget and Maharrey said this was the clicher.

“It would take 40% of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all the dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, and even more to prosecute all of them. The fact is that Obama tried his best to stop states from legalizing marijuana – but was faced with insurmountable resistance by the states. That’s why he’s had to back off,” he said.


SB3 now moves to the state House, where it will first be assigned to a committee.  If it makes it out of the committee phase, the full House will have an opportunity to concur.


For Pennsylvania: Take steps to support this important bill at THIS LINK.

For other states: Take the steps to get a similar bill passed in your state at THIS LINK.

Michael Boldin

The 10th Amendment

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