Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program celebrated its one year anniversary this week, racking up an impressive number of participating patients and doctors, sales, and a trickle of tax revenues for the treasury.
More than 116,000 Pennsylvanians have registered as patients. About 83,000 of those have been issued state medical marijuana cards which allow them to buy cannabis products from several dozen dispensaries operating across the state.
Nearly 1,000 physicians have been approved to certify patients to participate in the program, according to the Department of Health.
“Our goal for the next year and beyond is to increase the number of grower/processors and dispensaries operating, to register even more physicians, and to continue the growth of our scientific, medically based program,” said Secretary of Health Rachel Levine.
State dispensaries have completed nearly 600,000 medical marijuana transactions, grossing $132 million in total sales, according to Levine. The state also has collected more than $2 million in taxes on those sales.
“There has been steady, positive progress that I am pleased to report,” said Gov. Wolf in a statement issued Friday afternoon.
But a much-touted program designed to pair eight additional marijuana producers with research universities remains stalled.
The process ground to a halt following lawsuits alleging unfair competition. They demanded a rewriting of the state regulations, and the rejection of all the aspiring producers’ applications for various reasons.
The Pa. Department of Health said it will give those companies a second chance and accept another round of applications “soon.”
When medical marijuana sales launched in February, the state only allowed dispensaries to sell processed cannabis oils, tinctures, and pills. By August, the Department of Health granted permission to vend the more traditionally smokable marijuana “flower.”
The state has approved 21 serious medical conditions -- from autism to ulcerative colitis, PTSD to chronic pain -- as qualifying conditions for patients to participate in the program. Levine is considering adding additional ailments, such as anxiety and Tourette’s syndrome, to the list.
The Pennsylvania program has far outstripped that of New Jersey’s. Since 2012, the Garden State has operated a limited medical program which was hobbled under former Gov. Chris Christie. Since the change of administration in Trenton in 2018, the size of New Jersey’s program has nearly doubled.
As of January 2019, there were about 40,000 qualified patients in New Jersey and just shy of 900 physicians who were authorized to write recommendations for the drug.
“Before Gov. Murphy took over, there were only 17,000 patients in New Jersey and only 500 doctors,” said Jeff Brown, assistant commissioner for medicinal marijuana at the New Jersey Department of Health. In late 2018, the state doubled the number of permits to marijuana companies. The permits will allow six additional cannabis-growing facilities and dispensaries to open this year. The state legislature in Trenton is considering a bill that would legalize all forms of marijuana for adult recreational use.
In Pennsylvania, there are already a dozen operational growers with 13 more cultivators expected to be producing and processing cannabis by late 2019. The Keystone State has approved 45 dispensary locations with the possibility of about 100 more to open this year.