On February 15, legal access to medical cannabis in Pennsylvania became a reality. And currently, nine dispensaries have opened their doors to patients. While the first weeks of the new program went well enough, demand quickly outpaced supply. It’s an issue Medicine Man Technologies sees often.
For the initial launch, Cresco Yeltrah was the only cultivator out of 12 licensed companies producing and supplying cannabis. Standard Farms has since come online, and Terrapin should follow shortly.
Meanwhile, one dispensary expected 60 patients during their first month and instead saw a hundred on their first day. As for the two dispensaries located closest to Philadelphia, Keystone Canna Remedies and TerraVida Holistic Center, they both reported shortages. TerraVida nearly went through its full inventory during week one and Keystone actually had to close down temporarily.
Unless more cultivation facilities can begin supplying cannabis soon, the problem will only get worse.
While only a handful of dispensaries have opened, the state allows for 50 permits and up to 3 locations per dispensary – that’s potentially 150 total. Also, there are now over 19,000 people on the state’s Patients and Caregivers Registry and only 7,000 card-holding patients. As more and more receive their physician certification, the demand for medical cannabis in Pennsylvania is expected to skyrocket.
The Original Act 16 and Looking Ahead to Phase 2
So, how did Pennsylvania get to this point? In April of 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed medical cannabis into law after bills went back and forth between the state Senate and House. It went into effect in May.
While smoking is not an available treatment, pills, oils, topicals, vaporization/nebulization, tinctures and liquids are available to patients with “serious medical conditions.” These include cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, glaucoma and many more.
Like other programs, patients and caregivers must first register and be certified to receive an ID card. Doctors who wish to prescribe medical cannabis in Pennsylvania must also register with the state and attend a mandatory training session before being able to certify patients.
Currently, the state’s Department of Health has issued permits for 25 growers/processors.
At this point, the shortage is being attributed to the state approving patients and having dispensaries open their doors before crops and product were ready for the influx. While this will likely stabilize as more growers come online, Phase 2 kicked off on April 3.
Part of this includes the state’s Department of Health opening the market and accepting applications for 13 more grower/processor licenses and 23 more dispensary permits. With no residency requirements for interested parties, this opens a huge opportunity in the country’s fifth-largest state.
Phase 2 will also allow for a research component that’s completely unique to Pennsylvania. Accredited hospitals and medical schools will be able to apply for an official permit in order to conduct research on medical cannabis. Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which has been conducting research and education on cannabis and hemp since 2016, plans to take the state up on the offer.
Other schools interested in the opportunity include Penn Medicine, Drexel University, as well as the Pittsburgh School of Medicine which announced its intention to jump into research, “We believe that the research will be of great importance in determining the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases.”
While medical cannabis in Pennsylvania is off to a somewhat rocky start, Medicine Man Technologies hopes that Phase 2 should help ease the situation. It’s now up to the state and local governments to execute the program standards according to the regulations and provide patients with easier access to cannabis. We’ll keep you updated.
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