By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
Clergy for a New Drug Policy has rallied faith leaders on behalf of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, as well as taxation and regulation in Vermont. We believe that success is possible soon in both states.
Over 10 months ago, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill allowing patients with qualifying conditions to use medical cannabis with their physicians’ recommendations. As amended by the House, the bill allows up to 25 growers and 50 dispensaries. Qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures, autism, sickle cell anemia, and intractable pain if conventional therapies and opioids do not work.
On March 16, by an overwhelming margin, the House approved the measure. Last-minute efforts are now being made to reconcile House and Senate versions. Governor Wolf has been a long-time supporter and is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk, hopefully in the next few days.
CNDP helped to organize the nearly 80 clergy in Pennsylvania who have signed a petition in support of medical marijuana.
On February 25, Vermont became only the second state in which a legislative chamber has voted to tax and regulate marijuana (successful legalization measures in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska were achieved through ballot initiatives). The Senate bill would allow individuals 21 and older to possess of up to one ounce purchased at retail outlets from licensed growers. The revenue collected from a 25% excise tax would provide support for drug treatment, prevention, and enforcement. Edibles and homegrown marijuana would not be allowed.
The bill is now before the House, where the Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings for the past week. Gov. Peter Shumlin is a strong proponent of the bill.
Thirteen clergy from all parts of the state are publicly supporting the measure through both a petition and public testimony.
We will keep you posted on the progress in both states.