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Pennsylvania lawmakers start debating medical marijuana bill

MARK SCOLFORO
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A proposal to allow marijuana to be prescribed for a list of medical conditions is being debated on the Pennsylvania House floor, where it’s facing changes before a final vote.

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals called trichomes, are nearly ready for harvest in the "Flower Room" at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. Marijuana-friendly doctors in states with similar medical cannabis laws face starkly different treatment by government regulators. When it comes to oversight of doctors, enforcement practices vary in the 23 states allowing medical cannabis. How governments oversee pot doctors has become an issue even in more tolerant states such as California and Colorado.

The House started to take up more than 220 amendments to the bill on Monday, and it could be Wednesday or later before the chamber decides whether to approve the legislation.

The 69-page bill under consideration passed the Senate in May by a vote of 40 to 7.

The Medical Cannabis Act would empower a state board to license growers, dispensers and processors. Patients would need a written certification from a doctor or nurse confirming they have a qualifying condition.

The list of approved conditions includes cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma, diabetes and chronic or intractable pain.

As House Republicans continued to caucus around 5 p.m. Monday before discussion began a little later that evening, Rep. Kevin Schreiber of York City, the York County House delegation's lone Democrat, reiterated his support for the bill.

Schreiber was confident the bill would pass if it stays close to its current form.

"I think it’s going to get a significant majority in the House," he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat from Mount Wolf, has repeated his support for medical marijuana. He's said he'd sign a bill such as this if it gets to his desk.

Schreiber said some of the amendments appeared to aim to change the bill radically; others sought intentionally to add provisions that would sink the bill, he said. He hopes that doesn't happen.

"I hope we can end the shenanigans and the political maneuvering," Schreiber said.

— Staff writer Sean Cotter contributed to this report. Reach him atscotter@yorkdispatch.com.