Pennsylvania Lawmakers Will Introduce Bill Allowing Farmers To Grow Medical Pot

Pennsylvania officials say the current “prohibitions on acquiring new permits harm both entrepreneurs and consumers.”
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A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers want to create new opportunities for farmers in the state to grow medical marijuana. 

State House Reps. Melissa L. Shusterman and Ismail Smith-Wade-El, both Democrats, filed a memo to colleagues on Monday detailing their plans to introduce legislation that “would allow Pennsylvania farmers to grow medical cannabis,” local news station WHTM reported

“It is crucial that Pennsylvanians have accessible and equitable entry into the burgeoning medical cannabis industry. Currently, however, prohibitions on acquiring new permits harm both entrepreneurs and consumers. Farmers and small enterprises are denied the freedom to share in the nearly $2 billion that has been generated by the industry to date. The resulting unfair market conditions deny consumers more affordable options to a proven and recognized medication,” Shusterman and Smith-Wade-El said in the memo, which was posted on Monday.

Their bill “would allow for a new permit that farmers and other small agricultural ventures can apply for to grow and sell medical cannabis to existing growers/processors on a limited basis,” according to WHTM, with both Shusterman and Smith-Wade-El saying that “passing this legislation would open the door to new growers, including those in marginalized communities.”

“There is a palpable need to change this prevailing imbalance. My legislation will establish a new permit for farmers and other small agricultural ventures to grow and sell medical cannabis to existing grower/processors on a limited basis,” the lawmakers said in the memo. “Enabling small scale cultivation will allow our small farmers to be able to pull their crops together to share in a new license so that they can be part of this large economic gain for Pennsylvania. Moreover, this legislation opens the door for growers new to the industry, women growers, and growers from marginalized communities to take part in this thriving enterprise.”

“Please join me in this effort to promote the economic wellbeing of small farmers and health of patients throughout Pennsylvania,” they said in closing.

Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis treatment in 2016, when lawmakers there passed a bill opening the treatment up to qualified patients in the state. 

Last year, two Pennsylvania state senators introduced a bill that would have allowed medical cannabis patients there to grow their own cannabis plants at home.

The two lawmakers, state Sen. Sharif Street, a Democrat, and Dan Laughlin, a Republican, told colleagues in a 2021 memo that their legislation would remedy “inefficiencies” in the state’s medical cannabis program.

“Since the passage of Act 16 in 2016, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana (MMJ) program has offered lifesaving medicine to communities across the Commonwealth. However, there are still inefficiencies around MMJ that are well known, especially as it relates to cost and access,” the lawmakers said in the memo. “This year’s quarterly Pennsylvania MMJ Advisory board meeting revealed significant disparities in accessibility. The PA Department of Health indicated that patients in some counties must travel more than two hours in order to reach a dispensary. This is simply not feasible for many Pennsylvanians. In addition, patients have also been vocal on the fiscal challenges around the rising costs of medicine and affordability.”

“It is critical that policy meet people where they are. By allowing medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis plants at home, we can help ease the cost and accessibility burdens for this important medicine. This legislation would go a long way towards helping everyday Pennsylvanians meet their health needs and ensuring everyone is treated equitably and fairly under Act 16,” they added.

The bill fizzled out in last year’s legislative session.

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