The Keystone Act: Act 16 and Pennsylvania

By: Brandon Lancaster

As the entire focus of these memos deals with marijuana, it would only seem logical to understand the process at which medical marijuana is legalized. This memo shall explore the history of how a state legislative branch passed a bill permitting medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s passing of Senate Bill 3 of 2015-2016 session shall be the observed case.

As recorded in the actions section of Senate Bill 3 (SB3) (2015), the bill was first referred to the Pennsylvanian state government on January 26th (next to action PN 0224, according to the chart). With 27 people sponsoring SB3, it made its way onto the floor. Roughly three months later, the state legislators amended SB3 and reported it on the floor (next to action PN 0793, according to the chart). Looking at the amended action, PN 0793 shows the legislators kept the text of PN 0224 but crossed out the original version to differentiate between the amendments (PN 0793, 2015). As it was amended, its first real consideration on the state legislators’ floor was on April 21, 2015 (SB3, 2015, chart). After speaking on the floor for a day, SB3 was referred to appropriations. The next action Pennsylvania’s state took was PN 0840. According to the action chart of SB3 (2015), SB3 was amended for a second time and reported to the senate floor on May 4th (chart). PN 0840 (2015) was less marked up than PN 0793, however the changed vocabulary narrowed the scope of what the bill allows, along with cleaning up the actual text (pg. 4-6). There was a second consideration of SB3 the next day.

The next course of action made by the Senate was PN 0889 (SB3, 2015, chart). On May 11th, SB3 was amended for a third time and passed the senate the next day. According to the chart, SB3 (2015) was referred to the House’s health committee on May 14th. A month later, the House re-referred SB3 to the rules committee and first considered it on November 18th (chart). The House was twice as slow as the Senate to first consider SB3. If this is any reflection of federal consideration, medical marijuana may take much longer to go through the bill to law process. If Pennsylvania took so long, being only a singular state, the federal government would take a much longer time as it must encompass all 50 states’ perspectives. Another interesting observation within the SB3 (2015) chart is how the House repeatedly took SB3 on and off the table from November of 2015 to January 2016 (chart). The long tedious process by the House delayed the implementation of medical marijuana, without amendments until PN 1609 on March 15th of 2016 (SB3, 2015, chart). However, once the House started the second consideration, the legislators quickly amended, referred, and approved SB3. PN 1609 was referred to the Senate on March 16th, where a month deliberation occurred as to create PN 1680 then PN 1690 (SB3, 2015, chart).

After all the long changes and amendments towards SB3 (2015), the Senate and House signed on April 13th, 2016 and sent it over to Governor Tom Wolf. On April 17th, Wolf approved SB3, which is also known as Act No. 16 (chart).


Pennsylvania General Assembly. (2015). Senate Bill 3.

Pennsylvania General Assembly (2015). Printer’s Note 0793.

Pennsylvania General Assembly (2015). Printer’s Note 0840.

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