Even though it is technically prohibited by state law, smokable medical cannabis could be coming to Pennsylvania dispensaries within the next year. This week, state cannabis regulators voted to allow the sale of cannabis flower to registered medical cannabis patients. At a recent meeting of the state's medical marijuana advisory board, a group with representation from the state House and Senate, members voted 11-0 in favor of allowing the sale of "dry leaf or plant form for administration by vaporization," the Tribune-Review reports.
Pennsylvania's current medical marijuana regulations only allow cannabis to be sold in the form of oils, extracts, pills, or tinctures. The state's first dispensaries opened their doors in February, but soon found themselves unable to meet the strong demand for medical marijuana. As product levels dwindled, the price of cannabis oil shot up to over $80 a gram, pricing it out of reach for many patients.
Last month, the cannabis advisory board floated the idea of allowing dispensaries to sell cannabis flower to patients, which could help resolve the supply bottleneck because it can be produced faster and cheaper than oil-based products. State law still prohibits the sale of "smokable" marijuana, so any sales of cannabis flower will be intended for vaporization purposes only. Of course, once a patient has brought some bud back home, there's nothing to stop them from rolling it up and smoking it if they so desire.
"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.
The board also recommended several new qualifying conditions, including terminal illnesses, neurodegenerative diseases, and spinal cord damage. They also proposed allowing the symptoms of opioid withdrawal to be considered as chronic pain, which would allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to help wean patients off addictive opioid medications.
Additionally, the board voted unanimously to recommend that doctors who write cannabis recommendations should be allowed to opt out of a public registry. Currently, all doctors in the state who wish to be approved to recommend medical cannabis must enroll in a registry that is published by the state. But some have been reluctant to apply out of fear that having their names publicly associated with cannabis could draw the attention of federal authorities.
The final decision on all of these matters rests with Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who has up to a year to decide whether or not to approve the board's recommendations. While Levine considers this decision, one of the state's new dispensaries has found itself mired in a legal challenge that could impact the legality of medical cannabis in every state. Medical cannabis cultivator PharmaCann is facing a federal lawsuit over whether or not a clause in their new property deed prohibiting "unlawful" use of the property applies to a state-legal medical cannabis business.