ACTIVE Statewide Cannabis Prohibition Repeal and Regulation
In 1972, Pennsylvania classified marihuana as a Schedule I substance as defined by the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act (pdf) in accordance with the Federal Controlled Substances Act. To be placed in Schedule I, a substance must meet all of three criteria:
- a high potential for abuse, and
- no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and
- a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision
This placement was made based on myth and hearsay, not scientific or medical fact. Philly NORML is of the opinion that marijuana consumers should not suffer unnecessary risk of jail time for something which was made illegal on faulty premises with the express purpose of targeting minorities. Cannabis never should have been made illegal to begin with, and the time has come for us to fix this problem.
The truth is, 24 states have legalized cannabis for medical use, thus negating the second of the third criteria. Another four have legalized it completely, plus Washington D.C. Its potential for abuse has been greatly exaggerated, driven by efforts to label people who use it as undesirable, lazy, unmotivated, stupid, or immoral - but most importantly, the criteria for determining this potential is under scrutiny. Marijuana prohibition has consistently affected minority and poor populations, especially in high-population cities. Marijuana is about as dangerous for you as caffeine is. The simple fact that millions of Americans use it regularly without any observable safety concerns negates the third criteria. Marijuana's placement in Schedule I is completely without merit and must be fixed.
Philly NORML is of the opinion that marijuana consumers, and the public at large, can no longer endure the conditions which cannabis prohibition creates. In the 2016 - 2017 legislative session, two bills are currently in the pipeline which the PA legislature should start seriously looking at as solutions to this problem: SB 528, the Regulate Marijuana Act, and the Cannabis Prohibition Repeal and Comprehensive Reform (CPRCR) Act.
Regulate Marijuana Act (SB 528)
Sponsored by State Senator Daylin Leach, SB 528 was introduced on February 25, 2015. Senator Leach first introduced a full legalization bill in 2013.
SB 528 would utilize the Liquor Control Board to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults over 21 years of age.
Cannabis Prohibition Repeal and Comprehensive Reform (CPRCR) Act
Sponsored by State Representative Jordan Harris, this bill has not yet officially been introduced nor assigned a number.
The CPRCR Act will repeal the prohibition of marijuana in Pennsylvania. We will remove marijuana completely from the Controlled Substances, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act. Possession of cannabis will no longer be a crime. Adults 21 years and older will be legally allowed to grow a personal cannabis garden, with a canopy area up to 50ft. sq. for personal use, and will be free to use it in the privacy of their own homes. In place of a black market, over which the Commonwealth has no actual control, we will regulate the commercial cultivation and sale of this commodity in a manner consistent with how we regulate wine, spirits, and beer. In addition we will set the stage for bringing pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid medicines to market, including establishing a Cannabis Research Program which will turn Pennsylvania into a leader of cannabis research on many fronts. Finally, we will bring the hemp industry back to Pennsylvania, putting one of the most useful crops known to man back where it belongs.
In addition, we will act to release non-violent cannabis offenders who are currently in jail, and expunge their records so they have an easier time finding work. Too often, jail sentences and criminal convictions, even those for marijuana, can make it extremely difficult to find work. This has an even deeper impact on low income communities, reinforces a cycle of poverty and crime that we as a society never could afford, and must now rectify.
To facilitate a model of regulation, the Liquor Control Board will be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board (LCCB), and the Wine and Spirits shoppes will be renamed Wine, Spirits, and Cannabis stores (WSCS). The LCCB will be responsible for handling registrations of Commercial Cannabis Cultivators and Medical Cannabis Patient Collectives, plus licensing of Commercial Cannabis Processors and Commercial Cannabis Retailers. The WSCS will be repurposed to include the sale of cannabis and cannabis products. Retail businesses in good standing will be free to apply for a license to sell cannabis and its related products to adults 21 years of age or older. They will receive their supply through the LCCB. The LCCB will also be responsible for overseeing the testing and quality control of cannabis and processed cannabis products received from cultivators and processors, utilizing third party laboratory services, and will include that information on the labeling of packaging used at point-of-sale. Lastly, the LCCB already has programs in place for training retail employees, which can be easily extended to include training on cannabis.
Farmers with a commercial cultivation registration will be free to grow the crop for its recreational or medicinal purposes. A commercial cultivation registration is required for growing over 50 sq. ft. of cannabis. Commercial cultivators will be free to sell raw or usable cannabis wholesale to the LCCB and commercial cannabis processors. Processors with a valid license will be able to create extracts, edibles, and concentrates for wholesale to the LCCB. It will remain illegal to create Butane Hash Oil (BHO) in one's residence - this can be dangerous if done incorrectly and should only be done by professionals with the right equipment in a space designed for industrial production of extracts.
With the passage of Senate Bill 3 as Act 16, Pennsylvania is currently in the process of spinning up a medical cannabis program. In addition to creating a model of regulation for recreational use, the CPRCR will establish medical cannabis collectives which will work in tandem with the existing dispensary model. These will help ensure that patients have cheap, secure access to high-quality usable cannabis without relying on the LCCB or WSCS. This is great for patients who need medical cannabis, but either can’t or won’t grow it themselves.