Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program to add growers, dispensaries

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program to add growers, dispensaries

Many states' medical marijuana programs already allow this.

That means that a maximum of 48 dispensaries in Pennsylvania will benefit from the medical research measure. Medical marijuana in that form could be inhaled as a vapor or consumed orally. According to the regulatory language, those grower/processors may also sell product to dispensaries licensed through the other seven clinical registrants, as well.

As of Thursday, about 25,000 Pennsylvanians have began the process of obtained the state-issued care needed to buy medical marijuana, about 9,000 have received the needed certification from a doctor, about 7,000 have obtained a medical card, and about 6,700 have purchased medical marijuana.

These new grower/processor and dispensary permits are divvied up among Pennsylvania's six medical marijuana regions. The panel on April 9 will vote on whether to recommend to the state secretary of health to approve the dry leaf and flower forms. As of now, dispensaries are only selling formulated cannabis products. But with public support for medical marijuana soaring among Americans, officials have chosen not to enforce the ban as it pertains to medical marijuana.

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Each Pennsylvania medical school doing the research will work in tandem with a separate entity that will grow the marijuana for study use and dispense it to patients in the study.

Collins said two of 12 currently approved growers are now shipping product and more should be in April.

If every dispensary permit-holder opens the maximum number of locations, Pennsylvania is looking at almost 200 places to go to obtain medical cannabis products - and soon possibly cannabis leaf and bud. The state has approved almost 500 medical practitioners to certify patients.

Applicants who received grower/processor permits previous year are not eligible for additional permits, but an individual dispensary company is eligible for a maximum five permits, or 15 separate storefronts. Proof of $2 million in capital must also be shown which includes $500,000 on deposit with a financial institution. Nine retail outlets are actively dispensing, Collins said. No Lehigh Valley companies were issued permits to grow, but Lehigh and Northampton County each got one dispensary permit. The end goal is to provide more research to help the patient.

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The measure also proposes a number of other changes to the state's medical marijuana law, including authorizing a person to serve as a primary caregiver for up to two patients. The state will allow up to eight medical schools, which are each associated with a hospital and typically have a strong focus on research, to conduct research on medical marijuana. The state had included a research partnership component in its initial 2016 law legalizing medical cannabis, but only on March 16 did the Department of Health release the actual legal language behind this idea (known as "Chapter 20"). As Pennsylvania's medical marijuana market matures, only those dispensaries attached to a clinical registrant grower/processor will be able to tailor their inventory and marketing to patients according to the results of the research.

"The issue is: A doctor is certifying that a patient can use medical marijuana for treating a specific condition, but that doctor ... is just sort of authorizing medical marijuana as a treatment", Murphy says.

"I'm so proud of how quickly our program has been implemented by the department of health", Briggs said.

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