HARRISBURG – The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 167, legislation sponsored by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46), to protect Pennsylvanians suffering from chronic illness from an inconsistency in the state’s driving under the influence (DUI) law that leaves them vulnerable to wrongful criminal conviction.
Since the passage of Act 16 of 2016, more than 700,000 patients have registered and qualified for the state’s medical marijuana program. Nearly 500,000 patients are benefitting from this non-toxic and natural treatment alternative.
In the law, there were protections for employees, professional license holders and those involved in custody litigation. However, the legislation did not address Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance controlled substance DUI laws. Currently, medical cannabis patients can be arrested, prosecuted and convicted even if they are not impaired.
Pennsylvania is one of only a few states with zero tolerance for controlled substances. Thirty-three states, including those with no legal access to cannabis, require proof of actual impairment.
Senate Bill 167 would treat the medical cannabis patient similarly to one using a prescription narcotic by requiring proof that the motorist is impaired and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.
“While the responsible medical cannabis patient never drives impaired, the risk of a zero-tolerance DUI arrest and prosecution is one of the most serious issues confronting Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis community,” Bartolotta said. “My bill will protect this community without sacrificing the safety of our roads.”
During a Senate Transportation Committee meeting last September, representatives of the Pennsylvania State Police testified that the bill would not adversely impact their mission to keep the highways and byways of the Commonwealth free of impaired drivers.
The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
CONTACT: Colleen Greer, 717-787-1463