The governor of Pennsylvania signed off on a measure Sunday that permits the consumption of marijuana for the treatment of specific diseases or symptoms of those diseases. Governor Wolf’s office issued a statement that said that this measure “will improve the quality of life for patients and their families throughout the state,” as patients will finally have access to treatment with cannabis.
While the measure has been approved, the process will not be immediate and officials are predicting that the program will become operational in 18 months to 2 years. This is a wonderful step in the right direction but it is unfortunate that people suffering from diseases that could be treated with cannabis will not be able to receive that treatment for quite some time.
· Pennsylvania will license up to 150 dispensaries that will be able to obtain an authorization to sell cannabis to patients with a doctor’s certification.
· The state estimates application and registration fees will net Pennsylvania’s coffers around $10 million within a year.
· The state intends to further benefit from this new policy by collecting a 5% tax on all medical marijuana sales.
This news has some pretty far reaching ramifications that will be felt outside of Pennsylvania as we only need one more state to approve the legalization of some form of cannabis (medical or recreational) for the number of states that allow it to equal the number that do not. Once we reach 25/25 parity, I think a tipping point will be reached and we will see the legalization rate increase dramatically at the state level. More importantly, with 25/25 parity there will be a huge amount of pressure on the federal government to change its stance on cannabis. My only fear is seeing it scheduled at Schedule II on the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), as big pharma will be able to jump into the market with both feet and start to throw billions of dollars into the green space. This would also permit them to exert pressure on politicians to pull current operators out of the market. This must not happen. We must continue the push to full legalization AND full de-regulation (i.e. not under the purview of the CSA) of cannabi