Medical Marijuana Signed into Law
After many years of debating and compromising, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has finally sent Governor Wolf legislation that establishes a system to legally produce and dispense medical marijuana for individuals with certain medical conditions. With an overwhelming 90 percent voter approval rating, the Legislature has finally come together and passed something that will better the lives of an estimated 200,000 suffering residents.
Under Act 16 of 2016, doctors would have to apply to the state and receive special training to prescribe medical marijuana for the following serious medical conditions: cancer, epilepsy, autism, sickle cell anemia, intractable seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, severe chronic and intractable pain of neuropathic origin, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s disease. Furthermore, patients and their caregivers would need a card issued by the state after receiving a certificate from their physician in order to obtain medical marijuana.
The program would create a new advisory board overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The board would be tasked with regularly evaluating the program in areas like patient access to the drug, whether to expand or reduce the number of dispensaries, additional medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana or methods for consuming it.
The act allows for up to 25 growers/processors and 50 dispensaries, with dispensaries allowed to have up to three separate locations (150 total) for patients to receive medical marijuana. A patient will be able to receive a 30-day supply at one of these locations in the form of pills, oils, topical gels, creams, or ointments. A patient may also obtain a liquid form of medical marijuana from a dispensary to use with a vaporizer or nebulizer or to convert to edible forms so that the individual can incorporate it into food to aid ingestion. Smoking of medical marijuana would be prohibited.
It has been estimated that it will take between 18 months and two years for Pennsylvania to set up the regulatory and growing process before patients can seek medical marijuana. However, a “safe haven” provision has been put into place in the meantime to allow patients or caregivers the ability to possess medical marijuana if they have obtained it legally in another jurisdiction where this medicine is legal. This provision will kick in 30 days from when Governor Wolf signed Act 16 into law for caregivers administering medical marijuana to children under the age of 18. After six months, this provision will be extended to adults.
Under Act 16, growers and processors would have to pay an initial registration fee of $200,000, annual renewal fees of $10,000 and a 5 percent tax on the gross receipts from the sale of medical marijuana. These monies would go towards Department of Health operations costs related to the program, for law enforcement and drug abuse services, and for research at universities and hospitals about medical marijuana. However, the new law states that the tax levied cannot be passed onto patients or caregivers and has provisions in place to assist patients who cannot afford medical marijuana.
I am very pleased that Pennsylvania now joins 22 other states, Washington D.C., and Guam to allow for the use of medical marijuana. I have been supportive of this proposal since the beginning after meeting with and witnessing the pain and struggles so many of these individuals and their families go through on a daily basis. The advocates have fought hard for passage of Act 16 and I am happy to see that the commonwealth will now offer these suffering residents a less toxic, less addictive medicine so that they can finally receive much needed relief from their debilitating symptoms.
My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the Lasch family of Bellevue. This past weekend, Stephen and Angela Lasch and their children, son Noah, daughter Kayley and daughter Hannah, died after their Bellevue home caught fire.
A GoFundMe site has been setup to pay for the family’s funeral expenses. Anyone interested in donating can visit the page by clicking here or visiting https://www.gofundme.com/76zeqdus.
Election Day Information
Next Tuesday, April 26, is Election Day! For any questions related to voting, I encourage everyone to visit www.votespa.com. The website offers information on voting rights, answers to frequently asked questions, and provides you with the ability to confirm your registration and much more.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the Primary Election is today. All completed absentee ballot applications must be received by the Allegheny County Division of Elections no later than 5 p.m. The Elections Office is located in the County Office Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh:
542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
When applying in person, as long as you are properly registered, you will be given an absentee ballot on the spot and you will be able to cast your vote right then and there.
If you have already applied for and received your absentee ballot, please know all voted absentee ballots must be received in the Elections Office no later than 5 p.m. this Friday, April 22 in order to be counted. If you have any questions or need any additional information, please visit the Absentee Ballot page at www.alleghenycounty.us or call 412-350-4520.
Locate Your Polling Place
If you are not sure where to vote on Election Day, or wish to confirm your polling place, Allegheny County offers a simple-to-use online Polling Place Locator. Click on the previous link to get started. Simply enter your municipality, house number and street name. Once you have entered that information, your polling place address will be displayed. You may also select “View Ballot” to see the ballot as it will appear before you when you go vote.
If you feel your information is inaccurate in any way, or have any further questions regarding your polling place or ballot, please call 412-350-4500.
How to Register Election Day Complaints
Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so online by visiting www.votespa.com and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab. The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter. Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board in the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.
In Allegheny County, written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the County Board of Elections. You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement or visit www.votespa.com.
All Senate offices will be closed next Tuesday, April 26 for Primary Election Day. My offices will re-open on Wednesday, April 27 as scheduled.
Liberty Bridge Repairs
Rehabilitation of the Liberty Bridge has begun and will be ramping up in the very near future. This much-needed project includes bridge deck replacement, ramp reconstruction, structural steel repairs, painting, concrete repairs, signage improvements and the installation of a new alternating overhead lane control system.
To help keep everyone informed, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has created an email distribution list for Liberty Bridge traffic advisories and construction updates. You can enroll by sending your email address to Steve Cowan at email@example.com with “Subscribe – Liberty Bridge” in the email’s subject line.
PennDOT has also created a website dedicated to the project, www.penndot.gov/libertybridge. The site contains updates on the project, detour and other traffic information. You may also call 412-344-5436, a hotline number that will provide updates and information on the project.
Upcoming Shredding Events
I want to alert everyone about two upcoming shredding events. On Saturday, April 23, together with Representative Dan Deasy and Crafton Borough, we are hosting a shredding event at Crafton Park from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Then on Saturday, May 14, along with Rep. Deasy and Green Tree Borough, we are hosting a shredding event in Green Tree Park from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we are hosting these events to not only raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge. You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.
Unused and Expired Medications
Police departments throughout Allegheny County will be collecting unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs and other medications on Saturday, April 30 as part of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses from these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. Additionally, everyone is advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines like flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash both pose potential safety and health hazards.
State Police, Allegheny County Police and City of Pittsburgh Police are all participating in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 30. Also, local police departments in Bellevue, Dormont, Green Tree, Ingram, and Sharpsburg will be participating. To view a listing of the sites closest to you, please click here. This list will be updated as more sites are added. For more information on how to properly dispose of prescription drugs, please visit the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's website.
Did You Know…
Did you know that in its ten previous Take-Back events, the Drug Enforcement Administration and its partners have taken in over 5.5 million pounds of pills?
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are reminding all motorists that driving is a skill that requires their undivided attention.
Distracted Driving is any action that draws attention away from the safe operation of a vehicle. There are three types of driver distractions: visual – causing drivers to take their eyes off the road; manual – causing drivers to take their hands of the wheel; and cognitive – causing drivers to take their mind off the road. One dangerous activity that involves all three types of distraction is texting. Pennsylvania’s anti-texting law took effect in March 2012 and prohibits text-based communications while driving and makes texting while driving a primary offense carrying a $50 fine.
Data collected by PennDOT shows more than 14,800 crashes in Pennsylvania in 2015 involved a distracted driver, with 66 deaths in those crashes. Over the past five years, more than 11 percent of Pennsylvania crashes involved a driver distraction, resulting in more than 300 fatalities.
PennDOT recommends the following safety tips for drivers to help avoid distractions:
- Store or turn off cell phones while driving. If you must make an emergency call, safely pull over to the side of the road.
- If traveling alone, set your GPS, radio and temperature controls before beginning your trip.
- If traveling with pets, be sure that they are properly restrained.
- Never operate your vehicle and attend to a child at the same time.
- If you drop an object while driving, leave it until you reach your destination or pull over safely to the side of the road before retrieving it.
For more information on distracted driving and the state’s anti-texting law please visit www.justdrivepa.org and search under “Traffic Safety Information.”
McKees Rocks Community Flea Market
The McKees Rocks Community Flea Market is being held in the Municipal Lot on Furnace Street in McKees Rocks. The Flea Market will run each Sunday through May 29 from 8 a.m. 3 p.m.
For more information including information on vendor tables please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania during 2015 totaled 1,200, the second-lowest number since record keeping started in 1928.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm