History of Medical Cannabis in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16), enacted in 2016, created the state's medical cannabis program, which for the first time authorized the legal possession, use and sale of medical cannabis in the Keystone State. Regulations governing the program's operation were developed in 2016 and 2017, with the Commonwealth's Department of Health announcing the award of the first 12 medical cannabis cultivators and 27 medical cannabis dispensaries authorized to serve patients at the end of 2017. Under the law eligible patients must be in-state residents, meet state qualifying condition standards from a list of 17 conditions and be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Patient eligibility is determined by a patient consultation with a licensed physician who is registered with the Commonwealth to recommend medical cannabis to patients. The law did not authorize patients to cultivate medical cannabis at home or permit patients to smoke cannabis as a treatment delivery method.

Medical cannabis sales began in Pennsylvania in February of 2018, the same year the Department of Health issued new regulations authorizing patient access to medical cannabis flower and expanding the list of eligible qualifying conditions to include cancer remission therapy, opioid-addiction therapy, neurodengernative disorders and spastic movement disorders. The Department of Health also announced in 2018 that it will not share patient registry information with law enforcement agencies, a move designed to maintain legal firearm ownership rights for medical cannabis patients. Other states do not provide this layer of protection, leaving those patients who own firearms vulnerable to second amendment rights infringements due to the conflict of federal and state cannabis laws. Late in 2018, Pennsylvania certified eight medical schools as official research centers and approved several more dispensary facilities. The state also streamlined the process to add new qualifying conditions.