In the days leading up to the reconvening of the Pennsylvania Senate on September 15, perhaps the hottest issue on the agenda is medical marijuana. With the passing of Bill 1182 (the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act) in the Senate on the strength of a bipartisan vote on June 27, it appears that medical marijuana may be in the future for Pennsylvania. The state senate will reconvene at the end of the summer recess, at which time the bill will be presented to Appropriations Committee. After that, the issue will be up for a vote by the general body.
At present, 23 states and Washington, D.C. have all passed some form of marijuana legalization allowing the use of the drug for medical purposes. Pennsylvania is one of three states (Florida and Ohio being the others) that have scheduled votes that will determine the legality of medical marijuana. This early on, the issue is expected to be a significant factor in the midterm elections of 2014.
As yet, it is uncertain whether or not Pennsylvania lawmakers will pass the bill. However, polls show that a significant percentage of voters favor legalization. In a poll conducted by researchers at Quinnipiac University in March 2014, it was revealed that about 85% percent of voters in the state are in support of medical marijuana legalization in some fashion.
That said, there is apprehension that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett will veto the bill regardless of the increase in public support and the actions of the senate. Corbett has long been known as a staunch critic of legalization, and he has gone on record to state that he only supports limited access to medical marijuana, and then only for children that have been diagnosed with severe seizure disorders.
Although much of the legislative debates are centered on the use of marijuana for medical purposes, it is expected that the legalization of the drug in Pennsylvania will have a significant effect on the quality of the marijuana sold for recreational purposes as well. A Pennsylvania college student who declined to be named said that there is a lot of uncertainty with regard to the quality of marijuana sold in the state. Most users simply do not know what strain they are getting, how old the stock is, and whether it is Indica or Sativa.
For these and other users in the state, there is a significant problem with regard to being uncertain about the cannabis they are getting, a problem which they expect that legalization would address. There are also those who believe that legalization would bring about a reduction in the stigma associated with cannabis use. however, most believe that legalization would result more in a change of mentality rather than a change in user habits.
In any case, it is doubtful that legalization will have an effect on university policy, which currently prohibits the use of any type of illegal drug on campus. As long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, students that wish to use marijuana will have to do so off-campus regardless of whether or not the medical marijuana bill will be passed.