All told, this will give Pennsylvania 50 marijuana dispensaries and 25 state-sanctioned growers of medical marijuana, said John Collins, director of the state Office of Medical Marijuana. State officials said 7,000 medical marijuana cards have been purchased. Perhaps emboldened by the new leadership, an Assembly panel yesterday agreed to expand the program, allowing 12 cultivators and 40 dispensaries instead of the existing six that are permitted to both grow and sell now, and letting registered patients buy up to four ounces of cannabis, or twice as much as they are permitted to obtain currently. While Mission Pennsylvania and other dispensaries have not yet been deemed operational, Collins said Thursday that all have so far "met their obligations" and are not in danger of losing their permits.
Up to eight medical schools in the state will partner with growers/processors in Pennsylvania that must earn "clinical registrant" licensure from the state's Department of Health (DOH). (Eckert Seamans represents a grower/processor that has partnered with an ACRC.) These clinical registrants, however, are on a separate track from the 12 grower/processor licenses already awarded in the first phase of the state's medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana in that form could be inhaled as a vapor or consumed orally. The state Department of Health is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form.
As of Thursday, 473 doctors were approved to issue certifications.
While medical schools in the USA have played a sideline role in marijuana research-mostly due to federal restrictions on the plant-the Pennsylvania program is a step toward a more formal integration between private industry and well-heeled academia. So far, 27 dispensaries have been licensed; 13 have opened.
A grower/processor application carries a $10,000 nonrefundable fee, and the permit costs $200,000 for one year and $10,000 to renew.
A clinical registrant must pay both the grower/processor and dispensary fees. The state has approved almost 500 medical practitioners to certify patients.
The state Department of Health also outlined a process for an accredited medical school with an acute care hospital to become an approved "Academic Clinical Research Center".
Dispensary fees include a $5,000 application fee, which is nonrefundable, a $30,000 refundable permit fee and proof of $150,000 in capital. That's up from the current limitation of no more than one patient. Based on the Phase 1 timeline, Collins said it would take about eight months for the new grower/processors and about a year for the new dispensaries to begin operating.
While doctors in Arkansas don't actually prescribe cannabis to their patients, patients do have access to legal medical cannabis if they go through the right channels.
"The issue is: A doctor is certifying that a patient can use medical marijuana for treating a specific condition, but that doctor ... is just sort of authorizing medical marijuana as a treatment", Murphy says. As Pennsylvania's medical marijuana market matures, only those dispensaries attached to a clinical registrant grower/processor will be able to tailor their inventory and marketing to patients according to the results of the research.
"I'm so proud of how quickly our program has been implemented by the department of health", Briggs said.