Thanks to a proposed change, smokable medical marijuana could come to Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program became law back in April 2016, yet sales of the drug only began last month, on February 15th. In the nearly two years between, state officials built the regulatory framework for the new industry and certified patients, caregivers and dispensaries. But less than a month after dispensaries opened their doors, major changes to the program are already under consideration. While the law currently prohibits the sale of dry herbaceous cannabis, smokable medical marijuana could come to Pennsylvania as soon as this summer.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolfe’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board gathered in Harrisburg to discuss changes to the state’s program that would allow dispensaries to sell dried flower.
The governor’s Advisory Board consists of three separate committees. And according to Philly.com, all three of the committees are behind the move to approve sales of dry leaf and flower.
Luke Schultz, one of the patient advocates on the Advisory Board, said the group “all came back with a positive recommendation”.
The next step is an official review of the Board’s recommendations. The review is scheduled for April 9.
A report will ultimately land on the desk of Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. After that, the recommendations will receive an up or down vote in the legislature.
So while the full timeline of the process is still TBD, there’s still a good chance smokable medical marijuana could come to Pennsylvania.
Under current PA law, dispensaries cannot sell smokable forms of marijuana. Lawmakers added the restriction to the legislation based on the well-documented dangers of smoking tobacco.
Some studies have shown that smoking marijuana is less harmful than smoking tobacco. However, smoking still poses health risks. For many, smoking stands in contradiction to the very concept of cannabis as a medicine.
As a result, dispensaries have only been selling concentrates, pills and tinctures. But these forms of medical marijuana require significant processing.
In short, the prohibition on smokable cannabis is hurting patients’ ability to access medicine. And that’s the main reason behind the Advisory Board’s proposal to change the law.
As of this week, Pennsylvania has only approved six dispensaries and even fewer producers. Cresco Yeltrah, the only grower-processor currently shipping medicines to dispensaries, said the move to sell flower would be a game-changer for patients.
“It would be great for patients,” said Charlie Bachtell, co-founder of Cresco Yeltrah.
“Of all forms of medical marijuana, flower offers the fastest speed to efficacy and the lowest price point per milligram of active ingredient.”
Put simply, medical cannabis in the form of flower is more effective and more affordable. The fact that flower requires less processing than other forms like concentrates means produces can lower costs, as well.
Allowing the sale of smokable cannabis wasn’t the only proposal the Advisory Board discussed. Other changes included approving more growers and dispensaries and registering more healthcare professionals with the program.
Both changes are less likely to be adopted than the sale of dried cannabis.
Experts predict Pennsylvania could become one of the largest medical marijuana programs in the country. Already, nearly 22,000 patients have registered with the program.
Physicians have certified more than 6,000 of them. 2,200 of those certified patients have already purchased medical cannabis at one of the six open dispensaries.
Pennsylvania hopes to expand the program to include 80 dispensaries and at least 12 producers.
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