As a group, Campaign4Compassion has remained largely silent as to where we stand on concurrence by the senate on SB3. We felt it necessary to afford the champions of our cause some time to gather their thoughts and make their own decision on the best way to move forward.
On one hand, concurrence is the path of least resistance… for now. If the Senate concurs on SB3, as amended by the House of Representatives, the bill goes on to Governor Tom Wolf to be swiftly signed into law. Shortly thereafter, countless parents will breathe a much deserved sigh of relief as they enjoy some amount of protection that the bill would offer those who have made the difficult choice to administer an illegal substance to their medically fragile children.
Roughly 6 months later, if all goes as planned, temporary regulations would be set into place, lending emergency provisions to all patients who qualify for medical cannabis until they can finally access medicine from a dispensary in our state.
During this time, no doubt, the Department of Health will be diligently working on the regulatory process for our program. Countless hours will be spent laying framework for a program that will arguably be the most complex operation the Commonwealth has seen, to date.
So what are we waiting for, you might ask?
First of all, SB3, as it passed out of the Senate, was a very different bill than SB3, as it passed out of the House. In the House of Representatives, several amendments were added to SB3, one of which was known as a “gut and replace”.
To be very clear, we know it would have been irresponsible for the Senate to concur immediately on a bill that had been so drastically altered, especially considering their legislative experts were not at the drafting table during this crucial phase.
One thing we believe we can all agree on is that this bill is flawed. It was flawed coming out of the Senate, and it remains flawed now. However, no amount of ping ponging between the two chambers will make it suddenly appear to be a work of legislative art, free of the need for improvements for years to come. That’s not to say that the respective parties have not enthusiastically tried to give us a workable bill. It’s just that everyone’s idea of what a workable bill is, is different.
No matter the outcome of the Senate’s vote, whether it be a vote on concurrence, or a vote to amend SB3 and make technical changes to “clean it up”, real work lies ahead. We may face, yet again, a period of agonizing work, as we lobby the House of Representatives to vote on concurrence. We face much uncertainty there, and no amount of reassurances will possibly alleviate the concern that we could be fighting another uphill battle to get SB3 passed, without issue, in an election year, during budget negotiations, with the two year session nearing the end. That’s just fact.
In the event that the Senate concurs, SB3 will go into law shortly thereafter. We would be lying if we said we thought we will see this medical cannabis program operate like a well-oiled machine. This program has so much overregulation in it you’d think we were seeking the medical use of heavily addictive, highly toxic opioids (insert eye roll here.)
While we know our answer to the question does not dictate which path the Senate will take, for the record, Campaign4Compassion has asked the Senate to concur. This request was not without debate, not without uncertainty, not without tears. Our position was a result of careful and calculated deliberation among members of our community. We weighed benefit versus risk and came to the conclusion that we were in a state of paralysis by analysis. And that, friends, is how indescribably important issues don’t get resolved.
Somehow we must move forward. Somehow, we must acknowledge that even an imperfect program, given attention and nurturing, can and will benefit patients.
For a time, we were so proud to see that our struggle to bring medical cannabis to suffering Pennsylvanians brought true bipartisanship into both the Senate and House chambers. It was amazing to witness our legislators not as Republican and Democrat but just as people wanting to do the right thing for their fellow Pennsylvanians.
What we seem to be left with is a lot of well- intentioned people and no clear path moving forward. We can’t help but wonder if our respective chambers lack the will to be cohesive on this issue.
Have our loved ones become political pawns stuck in bicameral gridlock?