On Wednesday March 16, 2016, the House overwhelmingly passed SB3, which had languished in two House Committees before finally being submitted for approval to the House last week. SB3 was significantly amended and both the House and Senate must pass a bill containing the same text before it may be submitted to Governor Tom Wolf for approval who has publicly stated he will approve it. The last hurdle then is Senate approval the House amendments to SB3.
Rather than go through SB3 in depth as it still may be amended yet again I will focus on some of the House Amendments to SB3. If you wish to review the House’s amendments to SB3 you may do so at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2015&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0003&pn=1609.
Initially, the title of the act was amended from “Medical Cannabis Act” to the less clinical sounding “Medical Marijuana Act”. The Medical Marijuana Act establishes a medical marijuana program for patients suffering from “Serious Medical Conditions” A “Serious Medical Condition” replaces “Qualified Medical Condition” and slightly expands what medical conditions registered patients can be prescribed medical marijuana for. The term includes: 1) Cancer; 2) HIV/AIDS; 3) ALS; 4) Parkinson’s Disease; 5) MS; 6) Damage To The Nervous Tissue Of The Spinal Cord With Objective Neurological Indication Of Intractable Spasticity; (7) Epilepsy; (8) Inflammatory Bowel Disease; (9) Neuropathies; (10) Huntington’s Disease; (11) Crohn’s Disease; (12) PTSD; (13) Intractable Seizures; (14) Glaucoma.;(15) Sickle Cell Anemia; (16) Severe Chronic Or Intractable Pain Of Neuropathic Origin Or Severe Chronic Or Intractable Pain In Which Conventional Therapeutic Intervention And Opiate Therapy Is Contraindicated Or Ineffective; and (17) Autism.
The medical marijuana program will be administered by the Department of Health(“DOH”). There will be three statewide regions administered by the DOH. The DOH will issue medical marijuana cards annually to registered patients. The DOH will also regulate the prices for medical marijuana.
With regards to grower/processors (previously separately defined under SB3) and dispensers, the DOH will be authorized to license 25 growers/processors and 50 dispensers state wide. A single person may not hold more than one grower/processor registration and single person may not hold more than five dispenser registrations.
One of the most notable amendments made by the House is the requirements and fees to be registered as a grower/processor and dispenser.
For a grower/processor, there is a $10,000.00 nonrefundable initial application fee. There is also a $200,000.00 one year registration fee submitted at the time of the application and a $10,000.00 annual renewal fee. Those fees shall be returned if registration and/or renewal is not granted. A grower/processor applicant must at the time of initial registration verify that the applicant has $2,000,000.00 in capital, $500,000.00 of which must be on deposit with a financial institution.
For a dispenser, there is a $5,000.00 nonrefundable initial application fee. There is also a $30,000.00 one year registration fee submitted at the time of the application and a $5,000.00 annual renewal fee. Those fees shall be returned if registration and/or renewal is not granted. There is no additional fee for operating more than one dispensary. A dispenser applicant must at the time of initial registration verify that the applicant has $150,000.00 in capital which must be on deposit with a financial institution.
Another amendment is the imposition of a 5% percent tax on the gross receipts of a grower/processor from the sale of medical marijuana from the grower/processor to a dispenser. All the proceeds from the tax are to deposited into a Medical Marijuana Fund, also created by a proposed amendment. The Fund will be apportioned as follows: 45% to the DOH for operation of the program; 10% for drug abuse prevention and counseling and treatment services: 30% for research related to safety and use of marijuana; 10% to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency: and 5% to Pennsylvania State Police.
If the Senate passes SB3 as amended by the House, and the Governor signs off on Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, I will provide a detailed examination of the Medical Marijuana Act from the prospective of the patient, grower/processor, and dispenser, individually. Until then, just the high lights of what is being proposed for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program.