A sudden spike in the number of registered patients and the addition of more dispensaries serving them may be causing a “drought” of medical marijuana available in the Philadelphia region.
“There’s definitely been a palpable shortage of product in recent weeks, especially in the southeast,” said Mike Badey, owner of Keystone Shops, a chain of three cannabis dispensaries.
“Sativa flower -- which is what patients say they use during the day so they don’t get drowsy -- has been very hard to keep in stock," Badey said. "I think it’s because there have been so many new people added to the patient base.”
Anxiety and Tourette’s syndrome were added last month to the Department of Health’s list of serious medical conditions qualifying patients to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. The list of approved ailments also includes cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain.
In less than three weeks, 3,000 more Pennsylvanians registered and named anxiety as their qualifying condition, according to Luke Shultz, a patient advocate who serves on the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.
“I can’t imagine Tourette’s added very many,” Shultz said.
The total number of registered patients in the Keystone State now stands at 185,000.
“A number of new dispensaries opened in the last few weeks and [they had to order] a complete inventory to stock their shelves,” Shultz said. “I’d be inclined to believe this has more to do with the shortages, but I don’t know for sure.”
As the entire supply of cannabis has remained relatively constant, there has been less to allocate for each shop.
When the Beyond/Hello dispensary opens next week at Fifth and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia, that will increase the number of dispensaries in the state to 60.
However, medical marijuana supply hasn’t kept up. Twenty-five growers have been issued permits to cultivate weed and process it. But so far, only 10 are shipping cannabis to the dispensaries.
“Even though demand is high, there is no situation where patients can’t get their medicines,” said Jason Erkes, a spokesman for Cresco Labs, which grows cannabis in Western Pennsylvania and operates several dispensaries across the state.
A spokesman for the Department of Health, Nate Wardle, said he wasn’t aware of specific shortages, “but the mix of product and strains of flower aren’t as robust as they could be.”
“Our demand far exceeds our product supply,” said Chris Visco, president of TerraVida Holistic Centers. “Our inventories are down to about one-third of what they should be. We’ve been setting sales records every week, but because of the drought, patients have been taking whatever they can get.”
A number of new growers are expected to start shipping flower and oils by October. Established Pennsylvania growers, including Cresco Labs and Moxie, reportedly are doubling production, but the increased harvests are not likely to be seen for several months.
Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has generated $350 million in revenues since its inception in February 2018, according to state data.
The Department of Health is slated to publish an updated application timeline on Friday for Phase 3 of the state’s research program pairing universities with marijuana growers.