By: Melissa Chapaska

Cannabis PA Law attorneys attended the Pennsylvania Department of Health press conference held today to update stakeholders on implementation of the medical marijuana program. Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced that temporary regulations for marijuana growers and processors under Act 16 will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on October 29th. Secretary Murphy also noted that proposed temporary regulations for dispensaries were posted on the Department of Health’s website today and the Department will be seeking public comment on these new regulations. Secretary Murphy also confirmed that the timeline for implementation of the program remains at the Department’s original estimate of 18 to 24 months.  In response to a question from Judith Cassel, attorney for Cannabis Law PA, the Secretary outlined how the creation of a physicians group and incorporation of research institutions will avoid the lack of physician participation felt in other states.

Following DOH’s press conference, the House Judiciary Committee met today for an informational session on the medical marijuana program. Secretary Murphy and Director Collins answered questions from the Committee. In responding to questions related to the fairness and transparency of the application process, Director Collins explained that the process to select the right vendors will be “difficult and complex” and that the application process must be “open, competitive and fair” to “accomplish a sustainable market that services the patient.”

Secretary Murphy and Director Collins also emphasized the following highlights:

  • To date, DOH has approved 103 Safe Harbor applications, which permit medical marijuana access for minors with serious medical conditions.
  • DOH received over 1000 public comments on grower/processor regulations
  • DOH is currently focusing on infrastructure development, such as implementation of the seed to sale tracking program
  • DOH strives to connect to patient community. To this end, the Department heralded its hiring of Lolly Betch as DOH’s medical marijuana patient advocate
  • Applications for Growers/Processors are slated to be released the first quarter of 2017
  • DOH is committed to engaging the medical community to ensure effective implementation of the program. The Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup, which includes representation from almost every major health care system in Pennsylvania, will meet again on November 28th to provide comments and insight on the newly published temporary regulations
  • DOH is in constant contact with other states that have implemented medical marijuana programs in determining best practices and lessons learned from issues faced by other state programs
  • DOH anticipates that deserving patients will have ID cards “in-hand” by October-November 2017
  • DOH has yet to completely fill the advisory board as required by Act 16, and does not expect to complete this goal until after temporary regulations are published
  • DOH is aware of possible zoning issues faced by medical marijuana business and is prepared to address them and hopes legislators will work with their communities to address zoning issues

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