National report card gives Pa. a C-plus for its medical marijuana law | Thursday Morning Coffee

A Philadelphia lawmaker, Rep. Chris Rabb, is offering bills he says would help close the gaps

February 24, 2022 7:19 am

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

new, nationwide report card gives Pennsylvania a C-plus for the strength of its six-year-old medical marijuana law, recommending a raft of changes and improvements as the ranks of the state’s eligible patients continues to grow.

The report, compiled by the California-based advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, notes that the state has gained 46,000 new patients since its last report card in 2020, an increase of 15 percent. The commonwealth is now one of five states with more than 300,000 eligible medical marijuana patients, according to the new report card.

As such, policymakers should be concentrating both on increasing access in a state with ratio of 2,403 patients for every retail location. Among them, allowing patients to grow a small number of plants at home for their own use.

Bipartisan legislation now before the state Senate would do just that. The bill’s sponsors, Sens. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, and Dan Laughlin, R-Erieargue that allowing home-grow, as advocates refer to it, will “help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine.”

The proposal, which is one of several now before the Senate Law & Justice Committee, would “go a long way towards helping everyday Pennsylvanians meet their health needs and ensuring everyone is treated equitably and fairly under [the state’s medical marijuana law].”

Earlier this month, the Senate panel, chaired by Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, held the first legislative hearing on legal, adult-use cannabis. Regan, a former U.S. marshal, is sponsoring the bill in the upper chamber.

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia (Image

On the House’s side of the Capitol, state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, one of the lower chamber’s most high-profile progressives, said Wednesday that he’s backing a number of bills that would help close some of the gaps highlighted by the new report card.

The state scored particularly poorly on two key metrics in the report card, netting an 80/100 on patients’ rights and civil protections and a 43/100 on questions of health and social equity, such as the ease of access in underserved communities.

The bills Rabb is sponsoring would, among other things:

  • Prohibit employers from firing a worker if they fail a drug test because of medically prescribed cannabis.
  • Protect patients from eviction for possessing and consuming their prescribed medical cannabis.
  • Remove DUI penalties for medical cannabis users. According to Rabb, the 34 states that permit some degree of cannabis use already have updated their respective laws. Pennsylvania, which takes a zero-tolerance approach, has not, Rabb said in a statement released by his office.

Rabb, along with several House colleagues, is a co-sponsor of a non-binding resolution calling for the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of addictive and dangerous substances.


Rabb, who also is a medical cannabis patient, said the state must “bolster our medical cannabis program to further protect the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who, in consultation with their physicians, have become legal consumers of this medication.”

As a patient/consumer, Rabb added that he’s “thankful that Pennsylvania has legalized use of this plant for medicinal purposes. I also strongly support legalizing adult-use cannabis in a responsible and equitable manner.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
It’s officially budget season in Harrisburg. Marley Parish lays out everything you need to know about the torturous dance thata starts with budget hearings this month, and ends, hopefully, with a final spending plan getting passed sometime before midnight on June 30.

The top Republican in the Pennsylvania state Senate has filed a complaint against rival gubernatorial candidate and controversial Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, for filing an incomplete campaign finance report, Stephen Caruso reports.

Pennsylvania’s highest court has picked a map submitted by voters backed by a national group aligned with Democrats as the commonwealth’s next congressional map, Stephen Caruso also reports.

An influx of federal grant funding is being used to provide and expand support services for pregnant and postpartum Pennsylvanians with Substance Use Disorder, Cassie Miller reports.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants President Joe Biden to follow the Constitution and consult with Congress before committing U.S. forces to any hostilities in Ukraine, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Colorado case over whether the state’s anti-discrimination law can compel a Christian graphic designer to create wedding websites for same-sex couples, even if doing so contradicts her religious viewpoint, Sara Wilson, of our sibling site, Colorado Newsline, reports.

The Philadelphia Board of Education has targeted March to publicly announce finalists under consideration as the next city’s next schools superintendent, and to hold a series of public meetings with each one, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: With a challenge to a newly approved state House map, Pa. Republicans showed us who they areMarc Stier, of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center, writes. And as the pandemic loosens its grip and as he celebrates a birthday, opinion regular Lloyd E. Sheaffer is looking forward to re-engaging with the world.

VILSECK, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 09: Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army are pictured during the preparation of armoured combat vehicles before deploying to Romania on February 09, 2022 in Vilseck, Germany. The troops will join other US troops already there as part of a coordinated deployment of NATO forces across eastern Europe. The effort is part of NATO’s response to the large-scale build up of Russian troops on the border to Ukraine, which has caused international fears of an imminent Russian military invasion. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

War in Ukraine
President Joe Biden has vowed more sanctions after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine overnight. The White House condemned the attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened ‘anyone who tries to interfere’ with the invasion, the New York Times reports.

The Guardian runs down everything that’s known so far about the invasion. Western leaders have decried the invasion, the newspaper also reports.

The United States bet on Putin blinking on pressure from the west – he didn’t, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Here’s a view from France, from Le Mondeas the invasion commenced.

Putin is ‘settling accounts with the west’ with the invasion – via Der Spiegel.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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Pennsylvania News
The Inquirer takes a look at whether Pennsylvania’s new congressional map is better for Republicans or Democrats.

The Morning Call takes a closer look at how the new map affects the Lehigh Valley.

The Citizens’ Voice, meanwhile, takes a look at the new map’s impact on northeastern Pennsylvania.

City & State Pa. offers its analysis of the newly approved map.

Some Tree of Life survivors are getting tattoos to help them through their grief, the Post-Gazette reports.

With another winter storm bound for Pennsylvania, PennLive runs down the road restrictions announced by the state Department of Transportation.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th Districtis getting a primary challengeLancasterOnline reports.

In Erie, public health officials are recommending that at-risk children continue to wear masksGoErie reports.

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What Goes On
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1 North Office Building: Senate Appropriations Committee. Budget hearing for the Dept. of Corrections/Board of Probation & Parole
1 p.m., 60 East Wing: House Game & Fisheries Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Perry Stambaugh
6 p.m.: Reception for Reps. Stan Saylor and Todd Stephens
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a mildly ridiculous $6,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has a pair of events today. At 11 a.m., he heads to the UPS hub in Middletown, Dauphin County, to highlight the state’s economic growth. At 2 p.m, he heads to Philadelphia to tout his plan to spend $1.7 billion in federal funding on a variety of initiatives.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to PennLive’s Jenna Wise, reader and attorney Bill Fulton, of Harrisburg, and old friend Jen Rehill, news director at WLVR-FM in the Lehigh Valley.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s a new solo track from Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton. It’s ‘Artifact22.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Montreal blanked the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 on Wednesday. It was the fourth win in a row for the Habs, who were Stanley Cup contenders last season, but who have struggled this year.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.