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AUTHOR: William F. McDevitt, Esq.




The Pennsylvania Division of Well being (DOH) reported that pretty much $100 million in healthcare marijuana sales occurred among February 15, 2018, and February 15, 2019, the very first complete year that healthcare cannabis was offered to Pennsylvania sufferers. Far more than $40 million in sales occurred among growers and dispensaries. Pennsylvania does not tax sales to sufferers, but does tax transactions among growers and dispensaries at a price of five%. Hence, in the very first year of licensed sales, the Commonwealth received around $two million in tax income from healthcare cannabis.


In April 2019, the DOH confirmed that the very first Phase II grower/processor was authorized to start operations. A total of 13 grower/processors received licenses in 2018. The 2016 Healthcare Marijuana Act (MMA) enables for a maximum of 25 regular grower/processor licenses. Assuming that all of the Phase II grower processors will generate item in 2019, the volume of healthcare cannabis in Pennsylvania will double and the cost for sufferers will fall. It is estimated that the present industry worth of healthcare cannabis is $two,000 a pound and falling.


This is a boon to the around 102,000 certified healthcare marijuana sufferers in Pennsylvania. It is also a prospective boon to the estimated 32,000 added sufferers who have registered on the DOH web-site but are nonetheless in the method of getting healthcare certification.


The quantity of registered Pennsylvania sufferers reflects a concerted work to make healthcare marijuana offered. New Jersey has had a healthcare marijuana system due to the fact 2010 and in March reported a total of 42,500 registered sufferers. New York enacted its healthcare marijuana system in 2014 and on April 16, 2019, reported a total of 97,646 registered sufferers. Pennsylvania’s system started processingmedical cannabis registrations in 2017 and currently has exceeded its closest neighbors in the quantity of registered sufferers.


Bugs in the Technique

Sustaining a industry in the face of rising provide will not be quick, and there nonetheless are bugs in the method that limit access to healthcare cannabis in the Commonwealth. To participate in the healthcare marijuana system a patient should very first register by way of the DOH web-site. Accessing the web-site is quick, but effectively finishing the on-line kind can be hard, so a lot so that lots of dispensaries and private groups sponsor patient sign-up events. Even when getting assist from an knowledgeable registration assistant, the failure price is about 50%.


The most popular registration challenge includes identification. The DOH method demands that a patient possess a state-issued kind of identification. A particular person who does not have a driver’s license will have a difficult time registering for healthcare marijuana. Even with a state-issued ID, the registrant should enter their data in a precise way. Getting into “Street” or “St.” when the ID says “ST” may perhaps outcome in a denial.


However, the method does not inform registrants why their application was denied. Some sufferers will just reapply till effective. Other individuals may perhaps really feel that they have been denied on a substantive basis and forego participating in the system.


Eye on the Patient

There are other obstacles to participating in the Commonwealth’s Healthcare Marijuana System. System participation demands certification from a doctor that the patient suffers from a single of 21 recognized healthcare situations. Some physicians will charge $150$200 for an appointment, and certification appointments are not covered below insurance coverage. In addition, the MMA demands that the patient getting cannabis stay below the “continuing care” of a doctor. In some places, physicians charge a month-to-month quantity to cannabis sufferers, believing that they should “monitor” the patient to comply with the law. “Continuing care” payments are not covered by insurance coverage and some physicians have been reported to charge up to $840 a year for ongoing care.


When certified by a doctor, sufferers should spend a $50 registration charge, which may perhaps be discounted for low-earnings people upon proof of participation in Medicaid, PACE/PACENET, CHIP, SNAP or WIC. Till that proof is accepted, no Healthcare Marijuana Card can be issued. Given that healthcare marijuana remains illegal below federal law, sufferers may perhaps not want to disclose their receipt of federal help.


The DOH, though committed to serving Pennsylvanians and creating access to healthcare cannabis extensively offered, should nonetheless operate inside its spending budget and pursuant to the MMA and its attendant regulations. However, the present method remains frustrating to lots of sufferers who really feel that they have been denied access, can’t afford healthcare certification or may perhaps drop federal entitlements by participating. Cannabis provide will enhance in 2019, but if demand does not enhance with provide, costs and tax revenues will fall. Hence, resolving registration complications and rising participation in the Healthcare Marijuana System is in the ideal interests of all Pennsylvanians.


About the Author

William F. McDevitt is a companion in the Philadelphia workplace of national law firm Wilson Elser, exactly where he is a member of the firm’s Cannabis Law practice. He can be reached at [email protected]