HARRISBURG – November 1, 2018 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) last week sent a letter to Pennsylvania’s Common Pleas President Judges asking them to assure that medical marijuana patients on probation and parole can use their medical marijuana, properly obtained from a medical marijuana dispensary, without risk of penalty in accordance with Act 16 of 2016 – Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act.
Senate Bill 3, Leach’s bill to legalize medical marijuana, was signed into law as Act 16 of 2016. Leach’s bill legalized medical marijuana for 17 specified conditions. The first Pennsylvanian legally purchased medical marijuana from a dispensary in February of 2018.
Senator Daylin Leach represents the 17th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Delaware County. He is also the Democratic Chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For more information visit www.senatorleach.com/newsroom.
Text of the letter
I am the author and prime-sponsor of Act 16 of 2016, The Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis law, 35 P.S. 10231.101 et seq. As you know, this law established a legal protocol for qualifying Pennsylvania residents to acquire and use medical cannabis, pursuant to the recommendation of a certified physician and the approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Recently, we’ve been contacted by a number of cannabis patients from around the Commonwealth who are concerned because they have encountered difficulties in being able to take their medicine as directed. Specifically, some patients who are on probation or parole have been told by their supervising probation or parole officers that if they test positive for cannabis, they will be considered in violation of the terms and conditions of their supervision and risk incarceration.
This is clearly a violation of the both the letter and intent of state law. But beyond that, such a policy causes great physical and emotional suffering, and, in some cases, puts lives at risk. Medical Cannabis reduces pain and spasticity in a number of conditions and can prevent life-threatening seizures in patients with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. It can also allow cancer patients to tolerate and thus remain on their chemotherapy.
It would not only be cruel and inhumane to deny sick people the only medicine that helps them, but it would also cause many people to turn to opioids to ease their suffering. States with a legal medical cannabis protocol have a 25% lower rate of opioid deaths. Given that Pennsylvania is approaching 3,000 opioid overdose deaths per year, it is easy to see how putting cannabis out of reach of patients will result in many lives lost each year.
In searching for a way to address this, I have been advised that the President Judge of each county can appropriately inform the departments charged with supervising those convicted of crimes that the courts will not order incarceration, or other penalty, in cases where a person is using cannabis pursuant to a legitimate and proper patient card issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It may be that you are already doing this in your county. If so, I am very grateful for your leadership on this issue. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to address this issue, I am writing to ask you to so inform the relevant departments in your county.
Obviously, any person who is using cannabis, or any other controlled substance in a recreational, or otherwise illegal way would and should be subjected to the appropriate sanctions. However, sick people need their medication. And I respectfully ask that you make it clear that your court and your county will respect that imperative.
I am very grateful for your consideration of this matter. If you would like to discuss this in greater depth at any time, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very Truly Yours,
Senator Daylin Leach
17th Senatorial District