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Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Stretching from the Atlantic Coast to Lake Erie, Pennsylvania is both one of the largest states in the northeast and one of the most populated. With nearly 13 million residents, Pennsylvania has remained a prominent force in American history since the signing of Declaration of Independence. As marijuana legalization in Massachusetts and Maine has given the east coast a foothold, Pennsylvania is developing their own approach to marijuana reform.

Is marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has legalized the medical use of marijuana for individuals with certain conditions and limitations.

When did marijuana become legal in Pennsylvania?

Act 16, titled the "Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act", was passed by lawmakers in April 2016 and was signed into law in May 2016. As of April 2018, much of the state has yet to see medical marijuana patients receive their medicine. Very few marijuana dispensaries have opened thus far.

Where are the dispensaries in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health released the dispensary and producer applications mid-January 2017 and the regulatory licensing agency (The Department of Health) has approved only a few producers and sellers of medical marijuana across the state. Under current regulations, Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensary licenses will be divided into six districts. Under phase 1 of the medical marijuana program, the following counties will be able to operate licensed medical marijuana dispensaries:
Southeast Region
  • Philadelphia - 3 dispensary licenses
  • Montgomery - 2 dispensary licenses
  • Chester - 1 dispensary license
  • Bucks - 1
  • Lancaster - 1
  • Berks - 1
  • Delaware - 1
Northeast Region
  • Lackawanna - 1
  • Lehigh - 1
  • Luzerne - 1
  • Northampton - 1
Southcentral Region
  • Blair - 1
  • Cumberland - 1
  • Dauphin - 1
  • York - 1
Northcentral Region
  • Centre - 1
  • Lycoming - 1
Southwest Region
  • Allegheny - 2
  • Butler - 1
  • Washington - 1
  • Westmoreland - 1
Northwest Region
  • Erie - 1
  • McKean - 1
The state will only be issuing two producer licenses per region during Phase 1. Regions may be expanded or divided and more licenses may be issued every two years. Initially, only 50 dispensary licenses will be issued.

It is important to note, Pennsylvania law allows each dispensary license to operate up to three dispensary locations, meaning 150 dispensaries may be operational by 2018.

Are they MED or REC dispensaries?

Beginning in January 2018, the first medical marijuana dispensary locations began to open across the state. At the time of writing, these dispensary locations will only serve medical cannabis to registered patients or their caregivers.

Who can be a medical patient in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania residents, no matter the age, may register with the medical marijuana program. Individuals under 18 are required to provide additional documentation and must have a caregiver. These documents are known as the √???√??√?¬Ę??Safe Harbor Letter√???√??√?¬Ę?? which require a background check of the caregiver and physician approval. As of January 2018, Pennsylvania has approved seventeen conditions or diseases as being treatable by medical marijuana, including any terminal diagnosis.
  • Cancer
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Severe or chronic pain, but only if current therapies have been ineffective or the pain is caused by nerves
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuropathies
  • Huntington's disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Intractable seizures
  • Glaucoma
  • Autism
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Intractable spasticity due to spinal tissue damage
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
The Pennsylvania Department of Health can approve additional medical conditions as long as scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of medical marijuana can be produced.

How do I become a medical patient in Pennsylvania?

An individual must first be diagnosed with one of the approved conditions and have a licensed medical professional (a physician in good standing with the state) recommend the use of marijuana to manage symptoms.

The patient must register then with the Department of Health, submit their physician verification, and pay the application and card issuance fee. The fee is $50. Patients able to provide evidence they participate in any of the following government programs may qualify for their medical marijuana ID card at a discount:

  • Medicaid
  • CHIP
  • SNAP
  • WIC

Where can I smoke?

Smoking marijuana is not permitted under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act. Medical marijuana may only be dispensed and consumed in the following forms:

  • In pill form
  • As an oil
  • In topical forms, such as gel, creams, and ointments
  • A medically appropriate method of vaporizing or nebulizing marijuana, except not in plant or full flower form
  • As a tincture
  • As a liquid

Additionally, medical marijuana may not be used in a way that may constitute negligence or professional misconduct. Marijuana may not be possessed or used at a correctional facility, though State correctional institutions may choose to allow employees with valid medical marijuana registrations to use medical marijuana as appropriate.

Students under 18 may have a parent or qualified caregiver administer medical marijuana products while at school. The school must have been formally notified and have protocols in place to ensure safety to students and staff.

How much does marijuana cost in Pennsylvania?

As of January 2018, Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensaries have only begun opening. The Department of Health requires producers to submit data on the average price per dose, using the information to determine if the average costs are excessive. If determined to be too much for a medical marijuana patient to reasonably pay, the Department may implement price controls to ensure access to medical marijuana products is affordable to all patients.

How much marijuana can I buy and possess in Pennsylvania?

Part of the registration process includes the certifying physician and patient developing an individual treatment plan. Dispensaries may sell no more than 30-day supply to a patient - a volume based on the customized, individual treatment plan for each medical marijuana patient.

Can I grow marijuana? How many plants?

Only licensed producers may cultivate marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania. As of January 2018, no patients or caregivers may produce marijuana.

How do I get a job in the marijuana industry of Pennsylvania?

It is clear that any person 18 or older with a drug-related conviction is automatically denied as a medical marijuana dispensary employee. Each employee (must be 18 or older) is to be fingerprinted and have their records submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police for an FBI background check.

Is drug testing for marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania lawmakers want to protect patients from discrimination but still provide employers the ability to set the rules for acceptable practices. In an attempt to clarify, the state has said that businesses can prohibit medical marijuana patients from performing the following duties:

  • Handling chemicals requiring a permit from the federal government or related agency
  • Dealing with public utilities, including high-voltage electric assignments
  • Any duty involving confined spaces or heights (as an example: mining or flying a hot-air balloon)
  • Any duty the employer has decided may result in injury to the employee or anyone else

A patient is deemed unable to safely do any of these tasks at a limit of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood serum which implies that a drug test is a reasonable method of testing on-the-job intoxication.

Is delivery legal?

As of January 2018, regulations only specify transport of medical cannabis products between producer, laboratory, and dispensary locations. That being said, delivery is not yet something available to medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania.

How to pay for marijuana in Pennsylvania dispensaries?

We expect patients to pay for medical marijuana with cash and possibly debit cards. Continued resistance from the DEA and Congress offer little motivation for banks to do business with marijuana companies. If the Federal government sees a bank is doing business with an illegal industry, deposits may not be insured and, at the worst, the bank will be charged with money laundering.

Featured Cannabis Business of the Month
- LivWell Dispensary -

Pennsylvania Marijuana Laws

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act has been a law since May 2016. Applications for the first round of producers and dispensaries have been issued licenses.

As of January 2018, only a single medical marijuana dispensary has opened, with several others on the horizon. In an effort to assess patient need and tailor access to the program and dispensaries, lawmakers in Pennsylvania have chosen to issue licenses to dispensaries or producers in separate phases. In order to address patient need across the state, Pennsylvania has adopted a six-district system.

In the first phase, each of the six districts will be granted two producers, or grower, licenses. Dispensary licenses will be issued based on current estimates of patient need, with a total of 27 being issued initially.

  • The southeast region, including Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Lancaster, Delaware and Berks County, will be granted a total of 10 dispensary licenses
  • The Northeastern region, including Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, and Northampton, are to be granted four licenses
  • Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, and York counties in the southcentral region are also granted four licenses
  • The north central region, including Centre and Lycoming, will be issued one license each
  • The southwest area including Allegheny, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland will be receiving five licenses in total.
  • Erie and McKean counties in the northwest region will receive one dispensary license each.

Each license allows for up to three dispensary locations to be established. For instance, the southeast region may have only ten licenses, but this could translate to as many as 30 dispensaries. As many as 150 dispensaries may be opened under Phase 1. √?¬†

Pennsylvania lawmakers expect the program to be fully operational in early to mid-2018.

Purchase and Possession Limits

Medical marijuana dispensaries are required to keep track of individual patient sales throughout the month and keep a log of total volume sold. Patients may not purchase more than a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.

Any person caught in possession of marijuana under 30 grams who is not a medical patient or caregiver may have to pay fines up to $500, accept misdemeanor criminal charges, and spend a month in jail. Any amount over 30 grams and the penalties rise to $5,000 in fines and as long as one-year imprisonment.

Driving while Intoxicated

No person in Pennsylvania is authorized to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, including medical marijuana patients.

Anyone determined to be under the influence of marijuana while driving may be subject to fines as much as $5,000, 18 months license suspension, 72-hours required jail time and as much as 150 hours of community service.

Driving while in possession of marijuana

Patients and caregivers are able to legally possess and transport up to a 30-day amount of medical cannabis products based on their individual medical plan. Any cannabis product purchased at a medical marijuana dispensary must not be taken across state lines, except in limited cases typically involving minor patients. Any medical marijuana product must be kept out of reach, in a secure space, and in the original container.

Marijuana Use by Minors

Minors under 18 may participate in the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program, but there are several additional requirements. Any patient under 18 must have at least one, but not more than two caregivers. The caregiver (the parent or legal guardian of the minor) must register with the state and submit a background check. In the event the parent or legal guardian is not available to perform the duties required, a qualified individual - as defined by the Department of Health - may be able to register as the caregiver instead.

In addition, Pennsylvania has added a form which would allow minor patients and their caregiver to purchase and legally transports medical marijuana products from dispensary locations in neighboring states while Pennsylvania implements their own marijuana laws.

Growing Marijuana at Home

Growing marijuana is only to be done by licensed medical marijuana producers. Any individual, including registered medical marijuana patients or their caregivers, caught growing marijuana at home may be subject to felony-level criminal charges with fines as high as $15,000 and up to five years imprisonment.

Places to Consume Legally

Pennsylvania marijuana laws specifically prohibit the use of marijuana in public. Patients may consume medical marijuana products in a private residence only. The use of marijuana in the workplace is up to the employer and the type of duties the job requires but is generally prohibited.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Prices and Economic Data

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in the spring of 2016. As of March 2017, the state has not issued a single license for a dispensary or producer, though applications were made available January 17th, 2017. Pennsylvania expects dispensary locations and producers to begin sales sometime in early 2018, so there is little information currently available on product pricing.

We do know the Department of Health is required to collect data from producers on the average cost per dose, no matter which dosage form (oil, tincture, etc.) If it is determined the prices are excessive, the department may set a price maximum to encourage producers to lower prices.

Fees, Funds, and Taxes

The state of Pennsylvania has set a limit of 25 licensed producers and 50 licensed dispensaries. One dispensary license entitles a business to operate up to three dispensary locations, allowing a total of 150 dispensary locations possible under the current rules.

The fees and related terms of becoming a producer or dispensary permit-holder are vastly different. Producers are required to pay $10,000 to submit the application while paying $200,000 dollars in registration fees. Additionally, producers must be able to provide evidence they have $2 million in capital available, $500,000 of which must be held in a financial institution. Dispensary licenses come with a $5,000 application fee, $30,000 in registration costs, and necessary capital of $150,000.

Pennsylvania has created a special fund - the Medical Marijuana Program Fund - where the fees and any tax revenue collected will be deposited. Medical marijuana products will be taxed at a rate of 5% on sales from a producer to a dispensary.

45% of the revenues collected will be transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, where at least 15% will be used to lower fees and cost to patients and caregivers. 30% will go to research related to medical marijuana, and 10% will go to drug abuse counseling and prevention programs. Finally, 10% will go to local law enforcement and 5% is dedicated to the fees associated with background checks.

Marijuana Activities: Things to do in Pennsylvania

Perhaps the most prominent state in early American History, Pennsylvania is home to a variety of museums and tours available throughout the year. If diving into history is not appealing, the state is home to beaches, bays, parks, and unique architecture. As marijuana legalization further enters the east coast, the region will become a canna-tourism hotspot, bringing more events and activities for the medical marijuana consumer. Until then, check out any of these excellent activities:

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was established in the late 1800s. Over 140 years later, and the Museum is not only still standing, it remains a world-class attraction. Hosting ancient and contemporary artwork, the exhibits are both experimental and traditional.

The Phipps Conservatory

A work over 120 years in the making, the Phipps Conservatory is a collection of beautiful plants, flowers, and other living aspects of the ecosystem. From butterfly exhibits to rare flowers, the conservatory hosts a variety of rotating events and classes to educate and even inspire.

Independence Hall

Go to the very place the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution was signed and explore American history since its governmental beginnings. Take a free tour, hosted every 20-30 minutes by a National Park Service Ranger.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is a rare look at an industry once seen as the pinnacle of land travel. The Museum has over 100 historic train cars which you may explore in over 18 acres of the museum. Explore the role the railroad played in American history, in the Pennsylvania economy, and even during the Civil War.

Ricketts Glen State Park

Covering over 13,000 acres, the Ricketts Glen State Park is a large forest, filled with paths, lakes, and rivers. Densely forested, there are over 26 miles of trails for hiking and plenty of spots to swim or fish. Rent a cabin or bring a tent, and feel free to use the tables for the lunch or dinner barbecue.

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