The medical marijuana community scored another big win early this week when Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law the Commonwealth’s new medical marijuana law. As the 24th state to enact such legislation, the tide is unmistakably turning toward a majority of this nation having legal marijuana in one form or another.

Pennsylvania’s law is in many ways unique. For example, the law prohibits patients from purchasing or obtaining dry product or from smoking the substance (although this could change in the future). Instead, the law permits patients to obtain pills, oils, topical gels or creams, tinctures, and liquids, as well as to receive treatment through vaporization or nebulization. Smoking marijuana remains illegal, although edibles are explicitly permitted.

The law will have oversight from a newly-created Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, under the aegis of the Commonwealth’s Department of Health. The Advisory Board will begin putting together regulations shortly.

Although we are still hard at work reviewing and analyzing the newly-enacted law, here are some salient components:

  • The Department will issue 25 combined grower/processor licenses, as well as 50 dispensary permits. Each dispensary is permitted up to 3 locations, which means a potential total of 150 dispensaries across the Commonwealth.
  • Medical insurers—both public and private—are not required to reimburse for any costs related to the use of medical marijuana
  • Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, and chronic pain, among others. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s law includes autism as one of the qualifying medical conditions.
  • Physicians and other prescribers must register and undergo training to prescribe marijuana, and patients must be under the ongoing care of a registered physician to obtain marijuana
  • Employers can prohibit the use of medical marijuana by employees on the job, but are unable to discharge, threaten, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee on the basis of their certification to use medical marijuana
  • Application fees for the program range from $5,000.00 to $10,000 per facility, and registration fees range from $30,000 to $200,000 per location
  • Dispensaries must staff a physician, pharmacist, physician assistant, or certified registered nurse practitioner on site at all times