Becoming a Patient in Pennsylvania

To purchase medical marijuana, a patient will need to be under the continuing care of a physician who is registered with DOH. The physician may then provide a signed certification to the patient stating that the patient has a serious medical condition. The patient must then apply to DOH for an identification card. Once the patient receives an identification card, he or she can purchase medical marijuana at an authorized dispensary.

To begin the process of becoming a medical cannabis patient, a patient must visit the Patients and Caregivers Registry. Pennsylvania provides a list of physicians who are approved to recommend medical cannabis to patients.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
  • Autism.
  • Cancer.
  • Crohn’s Disease.
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Glaucoma.
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
  • Huntington’s Disease.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
  • Intractable Seizures.
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Neuropathies.
  • Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective.
  • Sickle Cell Anemia.

A patient with a qualifying condition and a doctor’s certification can apply to DOH to enroll in the program. If the application is accepted, DOH will issue the patient and/or his or her caregiver an identification card, which will allow them to access medical marijuana from a state-permitted dispensary. If found in possession of medical marijuana in a form and quantity that is allowed under the patient’s certification, the identification card also provides protections from arrest and conviction.

Patients may not:

  • Grow marijuana
  • Drive under the influence of marijuana
  • Give or sell marijuana to anybody
  • Possess marijuana on a school bus or school grounds
  • Use marijuana in a public place
  • Smoke marijuana
  • Use dried leaf or whole plant marijuana
  • Utilize medical marijuana in the workplace while performing specific dangerous activities

Usage Limitations

The only types of medical cannabis allowed initially are pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization. Dispensaries cannot sell edibles, but medical cannabis products could be mixed into food or drinks to facilitate ingestion by a patient in a facility or residence. Vaporization is allowed, and smoking is prohibited. 

Costs and Health Insurance

All patients who participate in a program are responsible for purchasing a $50 identification card. Discounts are available for individuals enrolled in Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, CHIP, SNAP, or WIC. Government medical assistance programs and private health insurers are not required to reimburse any costs involved with the use of medical cannabis itself or any costs associated with an employer having to make accommodations for the use of medical cannabis in the workplace.

Out-of-State Patients

Patients registered for medical cannabis in another state are not allowed access to medical cannabis in Pennsylvania.

Visiting Patients and Medical Marijuana Laws

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act does not provide protections for visiting patients. It is important that states include reciprocity so patients in new medical marijuana states can safely obtain marijuana in another state while waiting for dispensaries to be licensed in their own state.

Full details of patient responsibilities are available here.