Changes would increase scope of patients who can find relief with medical marijuana, decrease cost to patients, and help alleviate product shortages
HARRISBURG, Pa.— At a hearing on Monday, the Department of Health approved changes to the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program that were recommended by the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board on April 9.
The Department approved the advisory board’s recommendations to allow patients to access medical marijuana flowers for vaporization in addition to the more expensive processed products they can currently obtain from dispensaries. Smoking marijuana would remain prohibited. It also approved several additions to the list of conditions for which patients can qualify for the program.
The Department of Health will promulgate official regulations with the changes on May 12.
Medical marijuana became available in Pennsylvania to registered patients in February. Only a fraction of the approved cultivation centers and dispensaries are currently operational, and patients are not permitted to purchase whole plant marijuana under the current system. This has led to product shortages and prohibitively expensive medicine throughout the state. There is more information about the benefits to patients of allowing whole plant marijuana here.
“Allowing cannabis in its natural, flower form and expanding the list of qualifying conditions will have a huge positive impact on seriously ill Pennsylvanians,” said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, who helped lead the medical marijuana effort in the state legislature. “By being able to provide medical marijuana in plant form, producers will be able to get medicine into the hands of patients much more quickly and for much lower cost to patients. This is vitally important for patient access right now while the program is still getting off the ground and production is not yet at full capacity. We hope these rules are promulgated as quickly as possible so even more patients will be able to find relief.”
Pennsylvania was the 24th state to pass and implement an effective medical marijuana law. There are 29 states with effective medical marijuana laws and more than a dozen states have had medical marijuana bills introduced this year.