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Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Laws

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Laws

To access the most current information about the rules and regulations regarding  Pennsylvania marijuana laws, visit the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program’s website.

Governor Tom Wolf signed the state’s compassionate medical marijuana regulation into law on April 17, 2016. The law is SB 3, and the Senate initially approved it on May 12, 2015. The House made a few changes to the law before approving it on March 14 through March 16, 2016. After the House issued its approval, the Senate took another stab at the bill, making a few technical changes to it. The Senate returned the bill to the House on April 12 where it was finally approved on April 13, 2016.

What Medical Conditions Qualify for Medical Marijuana in PA?

A patient can receive approval for medical marijuana if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or if they have a particular medical condition. Conditions that qualify include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
  • Anxiety disorders;
  • Autism;
  • Cancer, including remission therapy;
  • Crohn's disease;
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the central nervous system (brain-spinal cord) with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and other associated neuropathies;
  • Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders;
  • Epilepsy;
  • Glaucoma;
  • HIV / AIDS;
  • Huntington's disease;
  • Inflammatory bowel disease;
  • Intractable seizures;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Neurodegenerative diseases;
  • Neuropathies;
  • Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain;
  • Sickle cell anemia;
  • Terminal illness; and
  • Tourette syndrome.

A petition was submitted to the Secretary of Health requesting that cancer remission therapy be added as a qualifying health condition for medical marijuana. The legislator approved the petition on April 16, 2018.

Under the Care of a Physician

For patients to receive approval for the medical marijuana program, they must be under the constant care of a doctor. Along with this, patients must receive medical marijuana certification from their physician in person. According to the state, marijuana certification must confirm that the person has a medical ailment that qualifies him or her for the substance. The certification must also confirm that medical marijuana would help the patient.

To become a doctor who can certify patients for medical marijuana, Pennsylvania requires physicians to register with the state. They are also required to complete a course that’s about four hours long and notify the Department of Health, or DOH, when one of their patients is no longer eligible to receive medical marijuana due to recovery or because they passed away. They must also pass a final review and approval by the Department of Health to become a Practitioner who can issue patient certifications.

Approved Types of Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania permits patients to use gels, pills, ointments, creams, liquids, oils, and tinctures. Those who qualify for medical marijuana can also access the substance by vaporizing non-whole plant varieties. In the state, dispensaries are not permitted to sell marijuana in the form of edibles, but Pennsylvania does allow them to mix the substance into beverages or food to help a patient ingest the marijuana as long as the person is staying at a facility or in a residence. Those who are eligible to use medical marijuana are not permitted to smoke it, but they can ingest it as a vapor.

Medical Insurance Information

The state did not enact a requirement for private health insurance companies or medical assistance plans managed by the government to reimburse a patient’s cost for medical marijuana. These types of insurers are not required to cover an employer’s costs to make adjustments in the workplace for an employee to use medical marijuana either.

People Who Live in Another State

Out-of-state patients who have received official approval to use medical marijuana are not allowed to access it in Pennsylvania.

Information for Marijuana Growers and Processors

The DOH allocated 25 permits for those who both grow and process medical marijuana. The state requires them to track the product from the initial seed stages to when it is sold. This means that they must use meticulous tracking methods and record retention. Those who grow and process medical marijuana must install surveillance systems and invest in extra security.

For grower/processor consideration, Pennsylvania required applicants to: 

  • Confirm that they could provide the proper amount of security to manage and prevent illegal activity surrounding the use of marijuana 
  • Provide proof that they were able to observe their local zoning requirements 
  • Share the details of their diversity plan

The state also had a list of financial requirements for applicants. These included:

  • Sending in a fee of $10,000 that was non-refundable
  • Sending in a refundable permit fee in the amount of $200,000
  • Confirmation that they have $2 million in capital

The state’s board had the option of sending permits to a minimum of 50 dispensaries. Each dispensary could have three facilities, which means that the state could have up to 150 dispensaries.

Additional Costs for Dispensaries

Pennsylvania requires every medical marijuana dispensary applicant to cover a $5,000 fee. If a dispensary is applying to grow and process the product, it will be charged a $10,000 fee. A business license for this type of business is $30,000 for every location that they will be selling marijuana out of. Dispensaries that intend to grow and process the product will be charged $200,000 for a license. There is also a 5% tax on the product.

Patients will need to pay a $50 fee for their identification card. A state advisory board has the power to change any or all of these fees.

Details about the Sunset Provision

Sections of the regulations that affect Pennsylvania dispensaries are scheduled to expire within three years of the government completing its plan for reorganizing the rules on marijuana.

Legal Safeguards

As long as patients or caregivers are registered for medical marijuana, they have protection against being arrested or prosecuted for possessing it. Also, they cannot be discriminated against for having it if they wind up in a child custody case. Employers are not required to make any work adjustments for those who have permission to use medical marijuana. A patient is not legally protected until he or she has received Pennsylvania's medical marijuana registration card.

When Minors Need a Safe Harbor Letter

The DOH published details about issuing safe harbor letters for minors, and the agency included details for applicants who were applying to give medical marijuana to minor patients in the state. These regulations started June 25, 2016.

The letter would be in effect from the initial issuing date and becomes invalid if the minor

  • Turns 18 years old
  • Recovers from the condition
  • Moves to a different state
  • Chooses a different doctor
  • Passes away

If the minor chooses a different doctor, he or she is required to alert the DOH and input a new letter from the new doctor. The letter also becomes invalid if the person administering the medical marijuana, or applicant, is no longer able to do so or dies. 

Who is Considered a Minor?

A minor is a Pennsylvania patient who is suffering from a condition that qualifies him or her for the use of medical marijuana and is under the age of 18.

Who is Considered an Applicant?

A parent, legal guardian or a caregiver who intends to give the product to a minor must process an application to the DOH to receive a safe harbor letter. Applicants may submit their request to the DOH even if they received the minor’s medical marijuana from a different state. 

Approved Marijuana Forms for Minors

Minors are approved to use oils, pills, topical agents, and vapor, involving sections of the plant. They cannot take edibles, but like adult patients, they can ingest a food item or beverage that contains marijuana. 

Caregiver Overview

The DOH can approve a third party as a caregiver for minors without parents or a legal guardian. A caregiver must be 21 years old or older to fulfill this role. 

PA State Liability

The state is not liable to other areas or states that supply marijuana to patients. If a doctor, family member, caregiver or applicant experiences damage or an injury due to the dispensing, growing, processing, or transferring of marijuana, Pennsylvania is not liable.

Applicant Denial

The DOH may refuse to issue a safe harbor letter to an applicant if the person has:

  • Been convicted of a drug crime within the past five years 
  • Abused drugs in the past 
  • Altered illegal drugs or controlled substances 
  • Provided false application information 
  • Been convicted of a crime that would cause the DOH to determine that the applicant suffers from morality issues 

If an applicant is denied a safe harbor letter, then he or she cannot take part in the medical marijuana program for at least five years.

Once your legal you can visit one of our Harvest PA dispensaries in locations like Camp Hill, Cranberry Township, Harrisburg, Johnstown, King of Prussia, Reading (Lancaster Ave), Reading (N 5th St.), Scrantonand Whitehall.

The Harvest House of Cannabis blog offers articles about cannabis for dispensary shoppers that visit our dispensaries.