Photo via Shelby Cassesse
Pennsylvania’s long-awaited medical cannabis program is finally up and running, offering Keystone State residents suffering from 17 severe conditions the ability to legally purchase, possess, and consume a number of THC and CBD concentrates, topicals and tinctures. But as patients traveled hundreds of miles and lined up to access the newly legal medicine, licensed sellers, buyers, and state officials reported high prices and limited options, with a number of specific products selling out only hours after sales began on February 15th.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, over 1,700 patients visited Pennsylvania’s six active dispensaries from February 16th to 23rd, with each customer spending an average of $200 per visit.
“We’ve been working to get medicines to patients as quickly as we can,” Pennsylvania Department of Health spokeswoman April Hutcheson told the Inquirer. “To see that come to fruition is a big win for the moms with sick children and all the patients who needed this medication.”
Thanks to a focus on life-threatening illnesses, Pennsylvania’s medical program is only open to a small fraction of the state’s population and does not offer smokable marijuana flower. While qualified patients can now purchase full-strength THC oils, waxes and tinctures, a limited number of suppliers and initial offerings has resulted sticker shock and low stocks of products for patients.
According to a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, dispensaries across the state sold the same products at significantly different price points, with Solevo pot shop in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood selling a half-gram vape cartridge of Lime Sorbet cannabis oil for $80, while Butler area dispensary CY+ sold the same vape pen attachment for a whopping $95. For reference, dealers in Pennsylvania’s black market sell similar products for $40 to $50.
“Those prices are ridiculous,” marijuana activist Mike Whiter told the Inquirer. “The dispensaries have a near monopoly on this medicine and it bothers the hell out of me to see what they’re charging.”
In addition to steep prices, Chris Visco, co-owner of Sellersville dispensary TerraVida said that one batch of highly potent Rick Simpson Oil was mislabeled, with one container of the product labeled to contain 10 doses, instead of the 100 dosages it actually holds. Visco told the Inquirer that dispensary officials immediately alerted Cresco Yeltrah — the state’s only up-and-running cannabis producer — who immediately sent out corrected labels.
And because Cresco Yeltrah is the only producer currently providing cannabis to the legal market at present, the company is already having a hard time keeping up with Pennsylvania’s demand, leading some products, including some CBD capsules and strains of shatter, to sell out at multiple dispensaries across the state.
“That was really the only hiccup,” Visco told the Inquirer. “It’s been better than expected.”
So far nearly 20,000 people have signed up for the Pennsylvania’s rapidly growing medical cannabis program, with almost 400 doctors authorized to certify them.