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|Marijuana policies, derailment update, rent hikes, care issues, waiting game, path forward, racism at IUP, and changing the state song. It's Tuesday. |
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a host of changes to the state’s cannabis laws that would expand who is eligible for a medical marijuana card and increase protections against DUI charges for patients, among other proposals.
And the new Democratic majority in the state House is bringing fresh hope to advocates who want to see Pennsylvania join dozens of other states where possessing a small amount of cannabis is legal or decriminalized.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: 5 ways Pa.’s marijuana laws could change in 2023
THE CONTEXT: Among the marijuana proposals to watch for this legislative session: major changes that would broaden who is eligible for a medical marijuana card.
Two state senators want to eliminate the 23 qualifying conditions and the need to renew medical marijuana cards.
Also on the table is decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro supports the latter, as do two Republican state senators. The two GOP caucuses, however, remain largely opposed.
Amending marijuana laws could open up debate over a range of issues — several of which were highlighted in a series of investigative stories from Spotlight PA that uncovered serious flaws in the medical program, including questionable health claims, weak oversight, and unfair rules.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"We fully expect at a minimum that tens of thousands of people, if they weren't using pantries before, will likely need to, or if they were using them before, they're going to have to come in an extra time a month."
—Joe Arthur, of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, on an expected surge in demand when extra payments to SNAP recipients end this month
|A LOST NEIGHBORHOOD: Join us Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s 8th Ward, the residents who once called it home, and the groups making sure it’s remembered. Register for the event here and submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|A snap of Lenten roses taken at Longwood Gardens. Thanks, Kathy B.! Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.|
|INFO GAP: Residents of East Palestine, Ohio — near the Pennsylvania border — told the Washington Post they are afraid to return to their homes despite assurances from federal and local officials it is safe to do so. The EPA said Sunday it had not detected contaminants at “levels of concern," according to the New York Times.|
RENT HIKES: Residents of a Meadville apartment building for older adults may be forced out of their homes after their Wall Street-backed landlord hikes rents by nearly 40%. Lever News reports the units were among thousands purchased by investment company Welltower.
CARE ISSUES: At least a dozen residents at a Luzerne County nursing home suffered various types of harm including broken bones and sexual assault in 2020 and 2021, the Citizens' Voice reports. One woman developed a flesh-eating disease because of infected bed sores, a level of negligence that a lawsuit argues led to her death.
WAITING GAME: Pittsburgh officials waited months to address issues with three bridges that experts said needed immediate attention, TribLIVE reports. The Gainey admin commissioned a review of all city-maintained bridges after the Fern Hollow collapse. It found 13 bridges in need of repairs within seven days, though some of that work is still not done.
PATH FORWARD: To understand how complicated it may be to resolve Pennsylvania's school funding disparities in the wake of a major court ruling The Inquirer (paywall) looks to New Jersey. Lawyers in that state have had to go to court several times to force lawmakers to pay up and problems persist with the formula that emerged from the rulings.
HATEFUL COMMENT: IUP is condemning a social media post in which a student used a racial slur in reference to "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Spotlight PA reported on previous racist incidents at the school.
STATE SONG: State Rep. Joe Ciresi (D., Montgomery) thinks it's time to change Pennsylvania's state song. Here's some background on the controversial tune.
LIMITED SUPPLY: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is holding three lotteries to give people the opportunity to buy rare Kentucky whiskeys.
SUPER POLE: Yes, even though the Eagles lost the Super Bowl, people in Philadelphia still climbed the greased poles along Broad Street.
SHOW TIME: Justina Miles, a Philly native who attends school in Maryland, won rave reviews for her ASL interpretation of Rihanna's Super Bowl show.
Unscramble and send your answer to email@example.com. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted
O Y O R H G L M P O
Yesterday's answer: Gregarious
Congrats to our daily winners: Irene R., Craig W., John P., Barbara F., Michelle T., Vicki U., Don H., Becky C., Ted W., Jon W., Susan D., Bruce B., Joel S., Wendy A., Nancy S., Jodi R., Mike B., Mark O., Karen W., Kim C., Jane R., John F., Bette G., Stanley J., James B., Rebecca S., Daniel S., Ada M., William Z., Dennis M., Bill S., Dianne K., Myles M., David W., Trudy W., Elizabeth W., Susan N.-Z., Dan D., Kate P., Starr B., Craig E., Elaine C., Kimberly D., Keith W., and Daniel M.