The GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Senate on Friday blocked an amendment to a House-passed medical marijuana bill that would have allowed registered patients to grow their own plants for personal use.
Under the proposal from Sen. Sharif Street (D), patients 21 and older would have been able to cultivate up to five plants. That would’ve marked a notable expansion of the state’s existing program through which cannabis is only legally available from dispensaries.
Members tabled the amendment in a party-line vote of 29-21. The full medical marijuana legislation it would have been attached to later advanced without the home grow provision in a 47-3 vote.
Street told Marijuana Moment that he is “disappointed that Republican leadership voted to table my home cultivation amendment.”
They voted to table the amendment, avoiding debate or a vote.
— Senator Sharif Street (@SenSharifStreet) June 26, 2021
Under the measure, cultivation would’ve had to take place in an “enclosed and locked space,” and patients would’ve needed to “take reasonable precautions to ensure that the plants are secure from unauthorized access, including unauthorized access by an individual under 21 years of age.”
Further, only patients or caregivers would’ve been able to tend to the plants. And violating the measure by growing more than five plants, selling or giving them away would’ve resulted in the loss of home cultivation privileges, as well as other penalties prescribed under the law.
Supporters hoped the proposal would’ve been attached to the broader medical cannabis reform bill, HB 1024.
PA Patients have been vocal on the shortcomings of PA’s Medical Marijuana program. Especially access, affordability and home cultivation. Their voices should hold weight in any amendment process of Medical MJ. #CannabisNews #cannabiscommunity https://t.co/RQVhnmrn3y
— Senator Sharif Street (@SenSharifStreet) June 23, 2021
Overall, the legislation that passed would extend temporary measures that were put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes allowing patients to purchase a three-months supply of cannabis rather than just one and allowing patients to be certified by a physician remotely via telehealth.
Curbside pickup could also continue under the legislation, and it increases possession limits from a 30-day supply to 90 days.
Sponsors are also making the case that the measure would create jobs because it incorporates hemp growers into the medical marijuana supply chain.
The bill also loosens restrictions on working in the industry, for people with past convictions.
Street was also able to attach language providing financial assistance to low-income patients, saying he is “encouraged” that GOP lawmakers supported that change even though they blocked the separate home cultivation amendment.
“Accessibility and cost have been a burden to patients for too long. We took a crucial step towards helping many access this medicine,” he told Marijuana Moment. “We still have work to do.”
Some advocates have taken issue with another provision of the bill allowing businesses to remediate contaminated marijuana products and sell them after an independent lab confirmed they were restored. But that’s a fairly common practice among legal states.
The measure as amended by the Senate was agreed to by the House later in the evening and it now heads to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf (D).
While advocates are disappointed by the Senate rejection of home growing rights for patients, they’re still also closely following broader adult-use legalization proposals.
Two Pennsylvania lawmakers are actively circulating a memo to build support for a legalization bill they plan to introduce shortly, for example.
This comes as a bipartisan Senate duo is also in the process of crafting legislation to legalize cannabis across the commonwealth. Street and Sen. Dan Laughlin (R) announced some details of the proposal earlier this year, but the bill has yet to be formally introduced.
Street told Marijuana Moment on Friday that the two are still “finalizing language” of the legalization measure but will introduce it before the end of this session.
Meanwhile, Laughlin joined his Republican colleagues in voting to table Street’s home cultivation amendment.
I spoke in caucus today on behalf of Senator Street’s home grow amendment. I couldn’t get enough votes. Tabling the amendment was the best I could argue for.
— Dan Laughlin (@VoteLaughlin) June 25, 2021
Separately, two bills to decriminalize cannabis alone were introduced in the GOP-controlled House and Senate in January, but they’ve yet to receive hearings in the committees to which they were referred.
Outside the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said earlier this year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.
The governor has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model. A new version of that proposal was refiled in the current legislative session.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate, previously led a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on legalization. He’s credited that effort with helping to move the governor toward embracing comprehensive reform. The lieutenant governor even festooned his Capitol office with marijuana-themed decor in contravention of a state law passed by the GOP-led legislature.
Fetterman has also been actively involved in encouraging the governor to exercise his clemency power for cannabis cases while the legislature moves to advance reform.
Last month, Wolf pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marks his 96th pardon for people with cannabis convictions through the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses that’s being run by the Board of Pardons.
Overall, legalization is popular among Pennsylvania voters, with 58 percent of residents saying they favor ending cannabis prohibition in a survey released in April.
Another poll released last month found that a majority of voters in the state also support decriminalizing all currently illicit drugs.
Read the text of the marijuana home cultivation amendment below: