State Sen. Dan Laughlin cosponsors bill to permit home cultivation of medical marijuana
A bipartisan duo of state senators wants to amend Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program to allow patients to grow the plant in their own homes.
State Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Millcreek, R-49th Dist., and state Sen. Sharif Street, of Philadelphia, D-3rd Dist., who earlier this year proposed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis for recreational purposes, have again joined forces by proposing what will be known as the Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation Bill.
Laughlin and Street put out a co-sponsorship memorandum Wednesday seeking support for their bill. State lawmakers defeated a similar proposal in June.
"It's obviously already been proven both in the United States and abroad that there are genuine medical conditions that can be effectively treated with this," Laughlin told the Erie Times-News Friday. "There's no disputing that anymore. For it not to be covered under anybody's insurance, I think this is a reasonable step to try and help cover the cost of their medicine."
The bill would also address issues of convenience, he said, especially for medical marijuana patients who do not live near a dispensary.
"If you're a cancer patient and you are not feeling well, cannabis helps you with nausea and stuff like that," said Laughlin, whose district includes most of Erie County. "For folks that have to get in a car and drive an hour or so away to get what they need to make themselves feel better when they could have a couple of plants right in their house, it does seem a little bit cruel to not allow them to do that."
Some 633,557 patients and caregivers are registered under the state's medical marijuana program and 367,925 people hold active patient certifications, or about 2.6% of the state's population, according to Pennsylvania Health Department data presented to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board in August.
Pennsylvania lawmakers approved the commonwealth's medical marijuana program, Act 16, in 2016, but did not allow patients to grow cannabis at home.
To be eligible for a medical marijuana card, patients must suffer from a qualifying medical condition and be prescribed a license through a physician who is certified under the program.
Laughlin's and Street's proposed amendment, once introduced, will replicate the home-grow provision for medical marijuana patients that they included in their more comprehensive adult-use marijuana legalization bill earlier this year. Laughlin in February became the first Republican in the General Assembly to support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The proposed amendment would allow medical marijuana patients to grow up to five adult marijuana plants, measuring more than 5 inches high, for personal use without a cultivation center license. They could possess up to 30 grams of the cannabis they cultivate.
Cultivation, the legislation states, must occur in an "enclosed, locked space" out of public view, that's not accessible to an unauthorized person, including people under the age of 21. Medical marijuana dispensaries would sell seeds to patients for home cultivation. Neither the seeds, the plants nor the cultivated cannabis they produce could be sold or given to another person.
The home-grow provision also stipulates that cultivation can only occur on residential property legally owned by the person growing it or with the permission of the property owner. Landlords, for example, could prohibit their tenants from cannabis cultivation.
Laughlin and Street in a news release noted that the current law has many "inefficiencies" that are reflected in "mounting data" from the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board and the Pennsylvania Health Department.
They also cite information from the Marijuana Policy Project: 15 of the 19 states that have legalized recreational marijuana and nearly half of the states with medical marijuana programs have home-grow provisions. No state with such a provision has attempted to repeal it.
In their statement, Laughlin and Street wrote that, "In some cases, patients have to travel more than two hours to reach a dispensary. And for many people with serious medical conditions — such as cancer patients and the terminally ill — medical expenses, a lack of insurance coverage for medical marijuana and a reduced ability to work make it difficult for individuals to afford dispensary-purchased medical marijuana.
"For some people who would benefit from medical marijuana," they wrote, "securely cultivating it at home is the only solution."