Pennsylvania's first cannabis dispensaries opened their doors last month, two years after legislators approved a limited medical marijuana law allowing qualifying patients to purchase cannabis oils, pills, or vape cartridges. The rollout has been anything but smooth, however, as dispensaries soon found themselves unable to meet the demand for medical cannabis, causing prices to skyrocket. Less than a month after dispensaries began selling their products, the price of legal cannabis oils spiked to between $80 and $144 a gram, considerably more expensive than a gram of gold.
To make matters worse, several of the state's dispensaries have already run out of product. Although the state has approved 12 cannabis cultivation and processing companies, only one of these firms has been able to deliver products to date. Cresco-Yeltrah is selling medical cannabis products via its own CY+ dispensary near Pittsburgh, as well as providing product to the state's other dispensaries, but the company has not been able to meet the demand of the state's entire medical cannabis market on its own.
Almost 21,500 patients have registered for the state's medical cannabis program, and over 6,000 of those have been certified by a doctor. More than 2,000 of these patients have already purchased medical cannabis products at the six dispensaries that are currently open, quickly buying up the stores' stock. The supply restrictions could loosen up in the near future, though, as two new growers-processors intend to ship their first batches of product by the end of the month. New dispensaries are also planning to open to the public as soon as their shelves are stocked later in March.
Eventually, the state's 12 licensed grower-processors will be supplying 51 dispensaries, and regulators are currently working on approving additional dispensaries. But until all of these businesses are fully operational, the state's medical cannabis market may still face shortages and high prices. In order to quickly resolve this supply chain bottleneck, state regulators have proposed allowing sales of a new form of medical marijuana, one that is currently prohibited under state law — cannabis flower itself.
At a recent meeting, the state's Medical Marijuana Advisory Board decided to recommend allowing the sale and use of smokable medical cannabis. The board will review this recommendation on April 9th and then forward their report to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine. Then, it will be up the state legislature to vote on whether or not to approve this recommendation.
Legalizing smokable medical marijuana "would be great for patients," Charlie Bachtell, co-founder of Cresco Yeltrah, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Of all forms of medical marijuana, flower offers the fastest speed to efficacy and the lowest price point per milligram of active ingredient."