Vape 'em if you got 'em, Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients.
After six months of legal weed sales restricted to tinctures, oils, and topicals, the Keystone State's medical marijuana program will roll out the first grams of whole flower cannabis sales today, a significant milestone for the nascent statewide industry.
According to a press release from the office of Governor Tom Wolf, cannabis bud will be available at 16 dispensaries today, with 12 more welcoming whole plant sales by next Wednesday, August 8th. Those early-adopting pot shops have already reported early morning lines, but despite the excitement, state regulations will require all patients to vape their medicine, continuing the ban of smoking the now-legal flower.
"The dry leaf form of medical marijuana provides a cost-effective option for patients, in addition to the other forms of medication already available at dispensaries," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, before adding, "It's vital for patients to remember that the dry leaf form of medical marijuana is available for vaporization only. It is illegal to smoke the medication."
Cannabis advocates across the world have consistently argued that the "entourage effect" that comes from whole flower marijuana, in which the THC, CBD, and other active compounds have not been separated or distilled, brings patients the most effective medical relief. On the other hand, though, medical experts are weary that smoking of any kind could be considered a medical treatment. Meeting in the middle of those two opinions, vaporization allows patients to consume whole flower cannabis without combustion.
If Pennsylvania medical patients are found to be smoking their legal weed they can face charges associated with drug paraphernalia and potentially have their MMJ licenses revoked. Poking fun at the new regulations that allow flower but ban smoking, Pennsylvania's largest legal cannabis producer, Cresco Yeltrah, posted a photo of a bud on social media along with the caption, "we'll leave the rest to you."
But while the state's smoking ban will remain intact indefinitely, Pennsylvania's medical marijuana advisory board voted 11-0 in April to approve whole flower sales, a recommendation that was later picked up by Secretary Levine.
"It was very important for the advisory board to approve patients' use of the plant material because it's the most affordable kind of medical marijuana and the most effective in treating certain medical conditions and symptoms," state Senator Daylin Leach said in a statement in April.
And with production of strain-specific oils, tinctures, and more already in full swing since the beginning of the year, Pennsylvania's licensed pot providers wasted little time weighing and packaging grams and eighths of Pineapple Express and Chem Dawg.
At Keystone Canna Remedies in Bethlehem, PA, patients will be able to purchase grams or eighths of some 40 different strains separated into three tiers of potency. Grams will range in price from $12, $15, and $20, while eighths will run either $40, $50, or $65 for top-shelf bud. In the coming weeks, Keystone Canna Remedies will roll out quarter-ounce and half-ounce bags, too.
"Why we have grams and eighths now is so people can try different things and see what's working for them because there is going to be so much variety," Keystone Canna Remedies spokesman Victor Guadagnino Jr. told Lehigh Valley Live. "You can get one gram of each and see what strains are working best for your condition."
As Pennsylvania legislators and cannabis advocates continue to push for medical marijuana expansion and even total legalization, the whole flower addition is an important bit of progress, bringing the state one step closer to competing with other East Coast legal weed hubs like Massachusetts and Maine.
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