Senate Committee Hears from Patients and Experts on Bartolotta Bill Protecting Unimpaired Medicinal Marijuana Patients

HARRISBURG – The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony during a public hearing regarding legislation sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) that would update Title 75 (Vehicle Code) to ensure legal medicinal cannabis patients who are unimpaired do not received a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction.

Since the inception of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program in 2018, approximately 633,557 patients have qualified and there are nearly 370,000 active participants to date. The program was designed with protections in place, including the requirement that individuals must register with the Department of Health.

Current law permits unimpaired patients to face the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and convicted for using medicinal cannabis when it has no bearing on their ability to drive a vehicle.

Senate Bill 167 would ensure medical cannabis patients have the same protections as patients proscribed Schedule II prescriptions by requiring proof of actual impairment as the basis for a DUI conviction. 

“A patient lawfully following his doctor’s orders shared a heartbreaking story about the challenges he faced relating to his job after being pulled over at checkpoints because of Pennsylvania’s DUI law,” Senator Bartolotta said. “Since it currently makes no distinction between medication that was used a month ago versus moments ago, Commonwealth residents are at severe risk of their lives being unfairly upended.”

Those in favor of Senator Bartolotta’s bill expressed their support to address this inconsistency in the law. They further explained that a blood test – which is currently used to determine driving fitness – does not correlate to a person’s level of impairment.

Testimony from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges: “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects…It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects base on THC-COOH (metabolite) concentrations.”

This conclusion was also supported by testimony from Ted Leonard, executive director of the Pennsylvania AAA Federation, who noted that unlike alcohol where a high blood alcohol content is an indicator of driving impairment, the level of active THC in the body and the degree of impairment are not necessarily related. His testimony goes on to say, “AAA recommends states use a two-component system that requires a positive test for recent cannabis use, and behavioral physiological evidence of driver impairment.”

Two other bills being discussed during the hearing included Senate Bill 773, which would address repeat DUI offenders, and legislation to be introduced by Senators Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) and Wayne Langerholc (R-35) to address recent court cases challenging Pennsylvania’s DUI Law.

Testimony from today’s hearing is available here. 

CONTACT: Colleen Greer, 717-787-1463

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