On April 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act making Pennsylvania the 24th state to enact a program for the growing and dispensing medical marijuana (“MM”). Certified patients with one of 17 listed Qualified Medical Conditions will soon have access to MM. The law will go into effect in thirty (30) days, on May 17, 2016. The Department of Health (“DOH”) will then have six (6) months to issue temporary regulations. Full implementation of the program may take up to 18 to 24 months.
The law creates an advisory board within DOH, composed of fifteen members, seven permanent members and eight appointed by legislative leaders in the House and Senate and the Governor. The permanent members are the: Secretary of Health; Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP); Chairman of the State Board of Pharmacy; Commissioner of the Bureau of the Professional and Occupational Affairs; Physician General; President of the PA Chiefs of Police Association; and President of the PA District Attorneys Association. The appointed members shall be knowledgeable about and have experience with issues relating to the care and treatment of individuals with serious medical conditions, geriatric or pediatric medicine or clinical research.
The Advisory Board will be tasked with reviewing the current laws and other states MM programs, and then submitting a written report to the General Assembly and the Governor. The DOH shall have authority to promulgate regulations to implement the recommendations of the advisory board.
The DOH will be tasked with implementing procedures for:
• establishment of an electronic database to include activities and information relating to MM organizations, certifications, identification cards, practitioner registration and electronic tracking of all MM grown or sold. The electronic data base must permit use by dispensaries and the Department to ensure that MM is not diverted or otherwise used for an unlawful purpose;
• issuance of identification cards to patients and caregivers;
• review and approval of certifications for patients to use MM submitted by practitioners;
• review and approval of applications to become growers/processors and dispensaries;
• establishment of announced and unannounced inspections of growers/processors and dispensaries;
• establishment of a four-hour course for practitioners regarding the latest scientific research on MM and establishment of a two-hour class for employees of growers/processors and dispensaries who come into contact with patients or who physically handle MM;
• establishment of a dedicated telephone number regarding MM so that patients, caregivers and members of the public may obtain basic information about MM and the Act;
• establishment of a manner and method to administer research studies of MM conducted by hospitals and universities within the Commonwealth.
The law allows a maximum 25 permits to be issued to grower/processors and 50 permits for dispensaries. Each dispensary may have three locations for a total of 150 locations.
For fiscal year 2016-2017, the estimated maximum revenue that could be received by the program is $10,000,000. All from the receipt of application and registration fees for the 25 grower/processers (maximum revenue of $5,250,000) and for the 50 dispensaries (maximum revenue of $4,750,000). No revenue is anticipated in fiscal year 2016-17 from identification cards or the 5% gross receipts tax.
The DOH estimates 31 complement positions will be needed and $1,300,000 is needed to develop and implement the database. For fiscal year 2016-17, the DOH estimates personnel and operating costs, including the database, will be $2,750,000.