Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Laws & Regulations

For the most up to date laws and regulations please visit the website of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program: https://www.pa.gov/guides/pennsylvania-medical-marijuana-program/

On April 17, 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law SB 3, Pennsylvania’s compassionate medical cannabis legislation. The Senate first approved the bill on May 12, 2015, and it was subsequently revised and approved by the House on March 14-16, 2016. The Senate made technical changes to the bill and sent it back to the House on April 12, and it received final approval in the House on April 13, 2016.

Qualified Medical Conditions

Patients can qualify for medical cannabis if they have a terminal illness or if they suffer from

  • 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.

On April 16, 2018,  the Secretary of Health approved a petition to add cancer remission therapy as a qualifying condition. 

Certifying Physicians

To qualify for the program, a patient must be under the ongoing care of a physician who issues a certification during an in-person visit. The certification must state that the patient has a qualifying medical condition and that the physician believes he or she could benefit from medical cannabis. Physicians must register, complete a four-hour course, and report to The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) if a patient no longer needs access to medical cannabis as a result of improved health or death.

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. Following the issuance of the board’s report, DOH could promulgate a rule that would allow patient access to dry leaf cannabis.

On April 16th 2018,  the Secretary of Health approved a petition to add dried flower for vaporization (but not smoking). The petition has a 90 day comment period before going into legal effect. 

Health Insurance

Government medical assistance programs and private health insurers are not required to reimburse any costs involved with the use of medical cannabis 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.

Growers and Processors

DOH will issue 25 combined grower and processor permits. They are required to use seed-to-sale tracking, thorough record keeping and retention, surveillance systems, and additional security measures. As of April 2018, 12 Growers/Processors have been approved. To become a valid grower/processor an applicant must:

  • Provide information in the permit application, including, but not limited to:
    • Ability to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse or other illegal conduct.
    • Evidence of municipality zoning requirements compliance.
    • Provide a diversity plan.
  • Submit a permit application with:
    • Initial non-refundable fee of $10,000.
    • Permit fee of $200,000, which is refundable if the permit is not granted.
    • Proof of $2 million in capital ($500,000 of which must be on deposit in a financial institution).

Dispensaries

The board may issue permits to no more than 50 dispensaries, which can each have three locations, allowing for up to 150 total dispensaries. As of April 2018, there are 18 open dispensaries, and the state is currently in Phase II of accepting applications.

Legal Protections

A registered patient or caregiver is protected from arrest, prosecution, and discrimination in child custody cases. Employers do not have to accommodate employees’ on-site use. Legal protections do not take effect until the patient has been issued a medical cannabis registration card. The legislation does not include a timeline for issuance of registration cards.

Taxes and Fees

Dispensary applicants will pay $5,000 per dispensary application and $10,000 for grower/processor applications. Medical cannabis business licensees will pay registration fees of $30,000 for each dispensary location and $200,000 for grower/processors. The grower/processor will pay a 5% tax on the sale of medical cannabis to a dispensary. Patients are initially charged $50 for an identification card, which can be waived for financial hardship. All fees may be modified by the advisory board.

Sunset Provision

Portions of the law related to dispensaries will expire three years after the Federal Government completes rescheduling of marijuana.

Safe Harbor Letter for Minors with a Serious Medical Condition – Temporary Regulations

DOH published temporary regulations for the issuance of safe harbor letters (SHL). The regulations became effective June 25, 2016 and will expire on May 17, 2018 or upon DOH’s full implementation of the program, whichever comes first.

What follows is a summary of the Temporary Regulations:

Safe Harbor Letter

A letter provided by DOH that allows the applicant to administer medical marijuana to a minor patient in Pennsylvania.

SHL Expiration

The SHL will be valid from the date of issuance until May 17, 2018 or the publication of permanent regulations, whichever comes first, or

  • The minor turns 18, no longer has the condition, or moves to another state;
  • The minor changes physicians, upon which they must immediately notify the department and submit a new letter from the new physician;
  • The applicant can no longer fulfill their responsibilities; or
  • The minor or applicant die.

Minor

A resident patient under 18 years of age with a qualifying condition listed in SB 3.

Applicants

Parents, legal guardians, and caregivers who wish to administer medical marijuana to a minor patient with a qualifying condition may apply to the DOH to receive a SHL. An applicant may apply to DOH regardless of whether the medical marijuana was obtained from outside Pennsylvania.

Medical Marijuana

Pills, oils, topical forms, gel creams, ointments, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization and neutralization. Manufactured edibles are not allowed but other products can be mixed into food or drinks to facilitate ingestion by a patient in a facility or residence. Vaporization is allowed, and smoking is prohibited.

Caregiver

If a minor does not have a parent or legal guardian, DOH can approve another individual, who must be at least 21 years of age, to serve as caregiver. If the minor patient is married to an individual under 21, that person may serve as a caregiver

Limited Liability

Pennsylvania is not liable to states and other entities who provide marijuana to patients, physicians who provide statements for applicants, caregivers, or family members or guests if they experience damage, injury, accident, loss, compensation or claim, based on, arising out of, or resulting from the growing, processing, dispensing, transportation, or sale of medical marijuana to the applicant or minor.

Ineligible Applicants

DOH may deny, revoke, or suspend a SHL if DOH has evidence of the following:

  • A conviction of a criminal offense that occurred within the five years relating to the sale or possession of drugs, narcotics, or controlled substances.
  • A history of drug abuse.
  • A history of diversion of a controlled substance or illegal drugs.
  • Falsified information on the application.
  • A conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, such that DOH would not be able to find the applicant of good moral character.
  • An intentional, knowing, or reckless violation of a provision of the act or this chapter.

An applicant whose letter is denied, suspended, or revoked may be prohibited from participating in the medical marijuana program for five years.

Law

SB 3 (2016) - created medical marijuana program

Regulations

Safe Harbor Letter for Minors with a Serious Medical Condition – Temporary Regulations