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THIS is Why You Should Pay Attention to Pending PA Marijuana Law

May 11, 2015

As your friendly Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, I’ve been trying to keep you guys informed about the various pieces of marijuana-related DUI law news items.

We talked a lot about a marijuana breath test that is in development. Most recently, I wrote about the so-called Cannibuster – a device in the works that would allow police officers to ascertain if THC (the chemical component in weed largely responsible for the drug’s psychological effects) is present in a driver’s system using only a saliva sample.

Why have I been talking and writing about these marijuana-centric topics?

Because as a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney who handles a ton of DUI law (and some of those, indeed, are not related to alcohol, but marijuana and/or other controlled substances), I foresee marijuana DUIs as the new frontier in driving-under-influence prosecutions.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that in parts of our country (I’m looking at you, Colorado), marijuana has been legalized for medical and/or recreational use.

But for those interested: Have you been keeping tabs on the movement to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania?

Here’s the skinny: Sens. Mike Folmer and Daylin Leach just last month reintroduced legislation that would allow some patients to treat their medical conditions with cannabis.

The Senate Bill is modeled after the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which passed the Senate in a 43-7 vote.

According to marijuana reform advocates, if this legislation passed in its current state, it would leave most patients behind because of its limited list of qualifying conditions. It should be noted that both vaporizing and smoking cannabis would be forbidden.

However, if the bill is approved (even with those restrictions in place), this Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney predicts there could be a spike in the number of marijuana-related DUIs in the state.

Because here’s the thing: A drug is not safe to ingest and then drive, even if a doctor prescribes it. I’ve had clients who took pills prescribed to them by a medical doctor only to be pulled over and charged with DUI and being incapable of safe driving.

Just some food for thought as Pennsylvania continues to discuss the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana.

Update: August 31, 2017

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law on April 17, 2016. Full implementation is expected no later than April 2018.

Requests for participation by medical marijuana growers, producers, and dispensaries began to be taken in January of 2017. The Department of Health has constructed a set of temporary instructions directing everyone involved in the program, including practitioners. A contract was given to MJ Freeman. He will follow the progress of the pot from as it goes from seeds to sales. Beginning July 26th, Physicians began to be able to apply at the Department’s Physician Registry as the first step toward participation in the program.

Twenty-seven dispensaries and twelve marijuana farmers have had permits approved that allow them to be part of the program. The Department has also developed the Medical Marijuana Physician’s Workgroup, a website where those who wish to take part can go to complete applications.

If you are under a doctor’s care and being treated for a serious condition, you may qualify to receive medical marijuana as a form of treatment.

Source: Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program

Update May 20, 2019

Two more things are being added to the list of medical conditions that are allowed to be treated with cannabis in Pennsylvania. Tourette Syndrome and Anxiety were approved back in February by the medical marijuana board. Their addition, when approved by the Secretary of the State Department of Health, will bring the total number of conditions treatable to twenty-three. Dr. Rachel Levine has said she’s still going over the literature to learn the hows and whys of treating the two conditions with medical marijuana.

The advisory board, since we’re talking about them, has also come under fire for not providing enough training and materials for police officers in the packaging and legal products available.

Source: Pennsylvania Real-Time News: "Medical Marijuana Update: Anxiety Could be One of Two New Conditions Qualified to be Treated with Cannabis in PA."

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