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Bill to legalize medical marijuana moves forward despite opposition

A Penn. Senate committee has approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, although stiff opposition remains.

Although bill may be vetoed, it suggests a shift in attitude towards marijuana possession

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has achieved unanimous approval from a state Senate committee, although it still faces serious opposition before becoming law, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bill would legalize some forms of marijuana for medicinal uses. Meanwhile, proponents of liberalized drug laws say that lawmakers should go further and follow other jurisdictions by decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Bill faces possible veto

Although the bill has achieved a lot of support from advocates of medical marijuana, its passage into law is far from assured. Many lawmakers in the House are firmly opposed to the bill. Furthermore, Gov. Corbett has vowed to veto any medical marijuana legalization bill, except for the legalization of cannabis oil for treating childhood epilepsy.

The current medical marijuana bill would allow people with certain conditions, including PTSD and cancer patients, to treat their conditions with marijuana in either edible or vapor form. The bill would not legalize the smoking of marijuana.

Attitudes shifting

Even if the proposed bill does not become law, it does signal a shift in attitudes towards marijuana. A recent editorial in the Intelligencer Journal went so far as to call on Pennsylvania lawmakers to follow Washington, D.C., which recently decriminalized marijuana possession. While decriminalization does not legalize possession, it treats it much less severely. In contrast to a criminal charge, people charged with marijuana possession would typically receive a fine, much like they would for a traffic infraction.

Philadelphia City Council has taken measures to decriminalize possession with violators being subject to a $200 fine and a drug-abuse class. While some have applauded the move, they also note that even when counties and states decriminalize marijuana possession, federal laws still remain in place. Therefore, while somebody in Washington, D.C., would only receive a $25 fine if they were charged by local police with possession, they could still face criminal prosecution if they were charged by federal authorities. The validity of City Council’s attempt to decriminalize marijuana possession has a number of additional roadblocks in its way. Charles Ramsey, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, has indicated that the City Police Department is obliged to follow state law. As state law makes marijuana possession a crime, no matter what City Council says on marijuana possession, the Philadelphia Police Department will continue to make arrests.

Fighting a drug charge

While drug laws are quickly changing in both Pennsylvania and across the U.S., as the above story shows, such change still faces many obstacles. Even if local authorities do not consider marijuana possession a serious offense, the truth is that offenders can still face severe penalties and charges from federal authorities.

Because drug laws can often seem confusing and contradictory, anybody charged with a drug crime should hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help an accused person navigate the tangled web of drug laws and help fight against a drug charge and conviction.

Keywords: Pennsylvania, marijuana