Pennsylvania medical hashish sufferers would obtain some safety from being convicted for driving beneath the affect if a invoice making its approach by means of the state legislature is handed and signed into legislation by Governor Tom Wolf. The measure, Senate Invoice 167, was accepted final week by the Senate Transportation Committee with a vote of 13-0.
If accepted, the legislation sponsored by state Senator Digicam Bartolotta would remove Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance coverage for THC, which has been used with out proof of impairment to penalize drivers who’re registered medicinal hashish sufferers.
“Senate Invoice 167 is critically wanted to guard the medical hashish group because the penalties for a managed substance considerably escalate,” Bartolotta told the Transportation Committee earlier than final week’s vote.
Pennsylvania has greater than 700,000 registered sufferers who’ve certified to make use of medicinal hashish for the reason that medical marijuana program launched in 2018. Nonetheless, the state’s zero-tolerance drug legislation places sufferers in danger, whether or not they’re under the influence of hashish or not.
“Beneath present legislation, medical hashish sufferers may be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted – even when they’re not impaired,” said Bartolotta. “SB167 will deal with the medical hashish affected person equally to at least one utilizing a prescription narcotic by requiring proof that the motorist or affected person is impaired and unable to soundly function a motorized vehicle.”
Jailed for a Damaged Taillight in Pennsylvania
State Senator Wayne Langerholc, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, stated that beneath the state’s present DUI laws, medicinal hashish sufferers who’re pulled over by police for one thing as innocuous as a damaged taillight may very well be given a ticket just because they’ve a medical marijuana identification card.
“I’ve learn by means of lots of totally different legislation evaluation articles on this and … I believe this sort of takes a novel method, perhaps a groundbreaking method to handle this,” Langerholc stated.
Pittsburgh legal protection lawyer Patrick Nightingale advised lawmakers at a legislative listening to held in September that medical hashish sufferers are in jeopardy of shedding their driver’s license or being put behind bars just by getting behind the wheel.
“We’re solely three years into this [medical marijuana] program and these sufferers presumably are going to be utilizing medical hashish for the remainder of their lives,” he stated. “They’re going to have a quantity two DUI come up fairly quickly and a quantity three DUI the place they’re a 12 months incarceration for utilizing medicine that the state stated is 100% nice to make use of.”
Bartolotta famous that the state’s zero-tolerance coverage will not be typical across the nation. She stated that 33 states, together with some that haven’t legalized entry to medical hashish, require proof of impairment for a DUI conviction. Solely 12 states, together with Pennsylvania, have zero-tolerance legal guidelines for particular substances together with THC.
On the committee listening to, Bartolotta emphasised that the laws doesn’t “give sufferers a free cross to drive whereas impaired by medical hashish. The impaired motorist or affected person shall, if convicted, undergo essentially the most severe penalties beneath our DUI legal guidelines.”
Langerholc, a former prosecutor, agreed, noting that “they are going to be held accountable the identical approach a person that was utilizing [cannabis] with none correct prescription could be.”
In a departure from the same old legislation enforcement stance on laws to reform hashish legal guidelines, the state police should not against the invoice being thought of by lawmakers.
“The Pennsylvania State Police stays dedicated to eradicating impaired drivers from our commonwealth’s highways to scale back crashes, and the accidents and fatalities that they trigger,” Maj. Robert J. Krol Jr., director of the PSP Bureau of Patrol, advised the Transportation Committee. “That stated, we imagine from our evaluation of SB167, that it usually doesn’t have a adverse impression on freeway security because it pertains to offering an exception for medical marijuana.”
With final week’s approval by the Transportation Committee, the laws now heads to the complete Senate for consideration.