On Sunday, April 17th 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed the marijuana bill into law, making Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. This is huge news, since Pennsylvania is a keystone state.
It is expected to take well over a year before patients will have full access to a medical marijuana program. Unlike the states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, cannabis in Pennsylvania will not be allowed for recreational purposes.
The signing of the bill brought tears of jubilation to many. Dave Bliler, a war veteran and PTSD sufferer now has access to medical marijuana. Not only has the drug been successful in the treatment of his PTSD, but it has also been used in the effective treatment of his daughter’s epilepsy.
While some were overjoyed by the enactment of the legislation, others expressed concern. A common complaint is that the law is too restrictive and does not allow for growing your own cannabis. Others believe the law clings to a non-scientific approach and is reminiscent of “reefer-madness propaganda.”
Other concerns centered around the fact that the criteria required for a medical marijuana prescription are overly strict. It is argued that the seventeen ailments stipulated as being suitable for treatment with medical marijuana is not broad enough and will limit the use of cannabis too tightly.
On the other hand, a significant percentage of people seem to feel that by limiting the ailments to be treated using marijuana, better control of the substance will be possible, since recreational users will not be able to use minor ailments as an ‘excuse’ to get a prescription.
Patients hoping to qualify for medical marijuana treatment will be required to meet strict criteria. Patients must be suffering from at least one of seventeen specified ailments. These ailments include cancer, epilepsy, PTSD and Parkinson’s disease.
Patients will also be required to register for medical marijuana treatments and only a licensed medical professional will be allowed to prescribe cannabis. Growing marijuana for the purposes of self-medication will not be permitted.
Patients who meet the criteria will need to make use of tablets, oils, ointments or a vaporizer. Smoking marijuana will not be permitted. The state will allow for up to 50 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. Each licensed dispensary may have a maximum of three locations to act as their supply outlets.
Countering Opioid Abuse
Pennsylvania has a history of opioid abuse and in 2014 was ranked 9th in the country for the number of fatal drug overdoses. Lawmakers are now hoping that medical marijuana will provide a popular pain relief alternative to opioid based pain killers.
Clinical trials on medical marijuana have thus far shown positive results when it comes to the symptomatic treatment of opioid resistant pain. What is encouraging is that patients who use non-psychoactive cannabis CBD oils show no signs of addiction to their cannabis medication.
Patients who use medical marijuana for chronic pain management have shown a vastly reduced reliance on the more traditional opioid based medications.
Tax revenues will add to state coffers
Growers and dispensaries will have to pay a fairly hefty application fee if they hope to be approved as official producers and outlets. The state of Pennsylvania will be charging a 5% tax on all medical marijuana production and sales. It is estimated that the revenue from applications alone will net the state in excess of $10 million dollars in its first year.