Too Many Patients, Not Enough Weed: Pennsylvania Struggles with Pot Drought
Pennsylvania’s 10 licensed medical marijuana growers have not been able to keep up with flower demand from the state's increasing patient pool.
Published on September 30, 2019

For medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania, dispensary menus offer a wide variety of THC and CBD-rich vape cartridges, tinctures, capsules, concentrates, and topical lotions. But when it comes to flower, Keystone State dispensaries are all dried up.

In a new deep dive from Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Sam Wood, Pennsylvania patients and cannabis business operators bemoan a perfect storm of regulatory expansion and impasse that has resulted in a statewide drought of dry leaf products.

“With one grower, I’ve gone from 150 pounds of flower a month down to 40 pounds,” Chris Visco, president of TerraVida Holistic Centers, a dispensary in Abington, PA, told the Inquirer.

So what’s behind the flower glut? For starters, Pennsylvania’s MMJ program only has 10 licensed cultivators currently supplying products for the entire state. And with the recent addition of general anxiety disorder as a qualifying condition in July, the program saw an immediate rush of new registrations this summer, including more than 3,000 sign-ups in the two weeks after the rule went into effect. Adding even more complications to the year-old market, 17 dispensaries have opened this year alone, stretching the heavily regulated supply even thinner.

On a whole, the supply shortage is a stark warning to other states about how slow regulating processes paired with heavy demand can quickly result in cannabis industry problems. 

“Problems with the licensing processes tend to create cascading effects throughout the system,” John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told the Inquirer. “If you get it wrong at the outset, it won’t be the only challenge you face. Pennsylvania is dealing with that right now.”

At TerraVida dispensary, patients are now restricted to purchase one ounce of flower a day — if that much is even available. At other Philadelphia-area dispensaries like Keystone Shops and Restore Integrative Healthcare, patients are capped at 14 and 7 grams of bud each day, respectively. 

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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