Pennsylvania Becomes 24th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana
First state to include autism as a condition
After the state House voted in favor of the medical marijuana bill, marijuana activists were biting their nails for fear the Senate would find a way to slow or stall the bill, but the bill passed last week.
Supporters knew they’d been successful, as Governor Tom Wolf had vowed to sign it into law. And the governor did not disappoint. Wolf signed the bill on Sunday, making Pennsylvania the 24th state in the nation to embrace marijuana as a legitimate form of medical treatment.
“This is really a great day for Pennsylvania. This is really a great day for all of us.” 
Cheers and applause broke out in the capitol rotunda in Harrisburg when the law was passed. Northumberland County resident Maria Belkadi wept with joy. Her 7-year-old son, Marksen, suffers from severe autism and sometimes screams for hours. Belkadi has done a great deal of research into cannabis, and became convinced it might be able to help Marksen’s symptoms and joined advocates in pushing for legalization to become a reality in Pennsylvania.
“In 30 days time, if we can get it legally somehow from another state that has it, we can start treatment for our son. I can only dream of what it’ll be like to have him go a week without him attacking me physically or screaming uncontrollably, melting down, hurting other people, biting other people and just suffering.”
Pennsylvania is the only state to include autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
According to the bill’s drafters, it could take 2 years to write regulations and get dispensaries opened. But lawmakers recognized that many children are suffering needlessly, so they included a provision allowing parents to legally administer medical marijuana to their children before the bill takes effect in a month. 
The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying doctors and licensing growers, dispensaries, and physicians. Marijuana must be used in pill, oil, vapor, ointment, or liquid form, but cannot be smoked. It is also illegal to grow your own plants.
The road to legalization was a 2-and-a-half year journey, but it will be well worth it for patients who suffer any of the 17 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, which, in addition to autism, includes:
- HIV or AIDS
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- intractable seizures
- sickle cell anemia
- severe pain of neuropathic origin or severe pain that resists traditional pain management
The law allows for up to 150 dispensaries. State government will monitor the price of medical marijuana and implement a cap if prices are “unreasonable or excessive.”
Sales from growers to dispensaries will be taxed at 5%, and fees will be charged to growers/processors and dispensaries. The money will go towards the Department of Health, which will run the program and assist patients and caregivers with program costs, research on medical marijuana, local law enforcement, and drug abuse prevention and treatment.
 PennLive (Featured image credit: Daniel Zampogna, PennLive)
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.