Supporters of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania celebrate this week as the first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Bulter, PA just north of Pittsburg. An additional 3 dispensaries are set to open tomorrow, February 16th with 2 more opening on Saturday, February 17, 2018. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said, "Pennsylvanians have been waiting years for this moment. Medical marijuana is legal, safe, and now available..."
Pennsylvanians voted on April 17, 2016 to legalize medical marijuana for 17 serious conditions under the new Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (PMMA) including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Cancer, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV, Neuropathies, some select nervous and gastrointestinal disorders. The state provides that medical marijuana use was approved in PA because, “Studies have shown that medical marijuana can assist patients suffering from certain serious medical conditions by alleviating pain and improving their quality of life.” The state also explicitly states that PA’s medical marijuana program does not protect against federal prosecution; the Department of Justice can enforce criminal federal laws relating to marijuana possession and use, except in the case of federally-approved research programs for growing, distributing and/or possessing cannabis.
Pennsylvania organized and developed their entire program including application process for patients, approvals of physicians that can certify a medical condidion and recommend medical cannabis, approved growers and processors, dispensary applications and approvals, laboratories certified to test the products, and a robust Medical Marijuana Advisory Board that includes justice and law enforcement officials along with patient advocates and medical experts. Lastly, the state also adopted the Safe Harbor Letter model whereby medical marijuana can be administered to students with appropriate approvals while on school property. The PA Departments of Health and Education support this measure to maintain a safe learning environment for all learners while meeting the needs of students with medical cannabis approvals also.
Every state that has legalized some form of medicinal marijuana has defined what constitutes medical marijuana in that state. In PA, the PMMA limited cannabis to pill, oil, topical, tincture, or liquid forms. Patients approved can also utilize a form appropriate for vaping or nebulizer treatments, with the exception of dry leaf or plant forms.