Pennsylvania Becomes 24th Legal Medical Marijuana State

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Marijuana plants
Source: CMElixirs, pixabay.com, Nov. 7, 2014

On Apr. 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, making it the 24th legal medical marijuana state. The law goes into effect on May 17, 2016, but is expected to take 18 to 24 months to be fully implemented.

The state will license up to 25 growers and processors and as many as 50 dispensaries (which can each operate up to 3 locations, allowing for a total of up to 150 dispensaries across the state). The dispensaries will be allowed to offer pills, tinctures, creams, ointments, liquids, and oils, or a form medically approved for vaporization. Smokable marijuana is not allowed nor will patients (or patients’ parents) be able to grow their own marijuana.

Governor Wolf stated in two Twitter posts, “All we are asking here is to have the ability for doctors to make decisions that will make patients’ lives better” and “This is a great day for Pennsylvania and a great day for Pennsylvanians.”

Representative Matt Baker (R-Tioga County) opposed the bill, stating that he was “very disappointed” in the passage of the bill by the state Senate: “I am just more concerned than ever this could lead to additional harm. We don’t want to harm children. We don’t want to harm adults. We don’t want to create additional dependence, addiction… The more I read, the more concerned I get.”

In order to obtain medical marijuana legally in Pennsylvania, a patient must receive a certification from a doctor registered with the state’s Department of Health and be issued an identification card. The patient registration fee will be $50. The patient must be suffering from one of the following: ALS; autism; cancer; Crohn’s disease; damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; epilepsy; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Huntington’s disease; inflammatory bowel disease; intractable seizures; multiple sclerosis; neuropathic pain or severe chronic or intractable pain that is untreatable; neuropathies; Parkinson’s disease; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or sickle-cell anemia.

Pennsylvania will collect a 5% tax on the gross receipts that a grower or processor gets from selling marijuana to another grower, processor, or dispensary. Sales tax will not apply to the sales. 40% of the taxes and fees collected will go to the state Department of Health for operations and outreach; 30% will go toward medical treatment research; 15% will go toward helping medical marijuana patients and caregivers pay for background checks, identity cards, or marijuana costs; 10% will go to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for drug abuse prevention, counseling, and treatment; and 5% will go toward local law enforcement.

According to State representative Patrick Harkins (D-Erie County), parents of minors eligible to use medical marijuana will be protected until Pennsylvania’s program is implemented: “The bill does have a safe harbor provision, though, that prevents the parents of children with a qualifying condition from being prosecuted if they legally buy marijuana in another state for medical reasons and bring it back.”

24 states and the District of Columbia now have legal medical marijuana, including Pennsylvania. There were approximately 1,246,170 legal medical marijuana patients in the United States as of Mar. 1, 2016.

Sources:

AP, “Pennsylvania Is Now a Medical Marijuana State,” mcall.com, Apr. 18, 2016

Scott Gacek, “Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Blocked by Rep. Matt Baker,” thedailychronic.net, May 16, 2015

New Plan for All of Us, “Medical Marijuana Soon Legal in Pennsylvania,” npaf.org, Apr. 15, 2015

Wendy Saltzman, “Gov. Wolf Signs Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill into Law,” 6abc.com, Apr. 17, 2016

David Wenner, “Medical Marijuana: Committee Head Fear Pa. Bill Would ‘Harm,'” pennlive.com, June 1, 2015

Max Willens, “Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Law Will Work for Parents Immediately,” ibtimes.com, Apr. 17, 2016

Tom Wolf, Twitter posts, twitter.com, Apr. 17, 2016