Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s original 13 founding colonies, legalized medical marijuana on April 17, 2016, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law SB 3, or the Medical Marijuana Act,. It became available to qualified patients on Feb. 15, 2018, with roughly 3,000 patients registered at the start of the Medical Marijuana Program.
The program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, has grown rapidly since its conception. Doctors had already issued more than 100,000 patient certifications to allow patients with serious medical conditions to get medical marijuana, according to an April 2019 announcement by Wolf.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Damage to nervous tissue with intractable spasticity
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Opioid use disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain
- Sickle cell disease
- Terminal illness
Applying for Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania
Getting medical marijuana in Pennsylvania involves four basic steps:
- Register for the program through the Medical Marijuana Registry
- Have a physician certify that you suffer from a qualifying medical condition
- Pay for a medical marijuana ID card. The fee is $50.
- Purchase medical marijuana from a state-approved dispensary.
Appointing a Caregiver
Registered medical marijuana patients may designate up to two caregivers to assist them in obtaining medical marijuana. Caregivers must register for the medical marijuana program at the Patient and Caregiver registry, and all caregivers must complete a background check before being approved. Caregivers must be at least 21 years old, a Pennsylvania resident, have a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID card, have no criminal convictions relating to the sale or possession of a controlled substance in the past five years, and finally, must register and obtain an ID card to enable them to pick up medical marijuana from a dispensary.
Acquiring Your Medicine
The health department has provided a list of approved physicians who may certify patients for the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Finding a dispensary isn’t difficult – the state has an interactive map that lists all approved dispensaries. The Health Department has limited issuing permits initially for up to 50 dispensaries, with each dispensary allowed no more than three separate locations. Many of the state’s existing dispensaries are concentrated in the Philadelphia area, but there’s still a fairly wide range of dispensaries scattered throughout the state.
Rules for Patients Visiting from Other States (Reciprocity)
Pennsylvania has no provisions for reciprocity. The law states that only a Pennsylvania resident who is certified to have a qualifying serious medical condition by a doctor participating in the state’s medical marijuana program can legally buy cannabis in the state.
Don Jergler is the Regional West Editor for Insurance Journal and a veteran business and real estate reporter. He has contributed coverage for the Long Beach Press Telegram, Long Beach Register, Los Angeles Times Custom Publishing and a variety of trade publications.