The State Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 21 in Harrisburg to discuss issues surrounding medical marijuana, workplace safety and legislation introduced to improve and clarify current law. Among those testifying were PA Chamber Director of Government Affairs Alex Halper, and Denise Elliott, an employment attorney with PA Chamber-member law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC.
In his testimony, Halper offered committee members some historical context from the 2015-16 legislative session when lawmakers were considering medical marijuana legislation. Halper noted that, while the PA Chamber did not take a position on the question of medical marijuana legalization overall, we did advocate for workplace safety and clear guidance to employers for managing medical marijuana use among their workforce.
Elliott testified to her and her clients’ experiences managing medical marijuana since it was legalized in 2016, noting that many of her clients are in “highly safety-sensitive industries, and they are tasked with a daily balancing act – accommodating an employee who chooses to use medical marijuana, while at the same time keeping their workplaces, their employees and the public safe.” She went on to describe shortcomings in the current medical marijuana law, stating “In performing this balancing act, employers are looking for clarity around what they can and cannot do under the law, and what they must and must not do. Right now, there is simply too much gray area, which benefits neither the employers nor the employees who wish to – and often need to – use medical marijuana.”
Both Elliott and Halper expressed support for S.B. 749, introduced by Senator Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery, which would amend Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law to address areas of ambiguity within the law. As Elliott explained in her testimony, “The proposed changes in S.B. 749 are aimed at providing necessary clarity for both employees and employers, eliminating unnecessary conflict and dispute, and keeping workplaces as safe as possible.”
Committee members asked a range of questions including related to current standards, the interaction between state and federal law and pending court cases.
The bill remains pending in committee.