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PA Medical Marijuana 
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frequently asked questions (FAQ)


 

General information FAQ 

what is medical marijuana?

Under Act 16 of 2016 (the Act or Medical Marijuana Program), the term “medical marijuana” refers to marijuana obtained for a certified medical use by a Pennsylvania resident with a serious medical condition and is limited by statute in Pennsylvania to the following forms:
  • pill;
  • oil;
  • topical forms, including gel, creams or ointments;
  • a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization, excluding dry leaf or plant form;
  • tincture; and
  • liquid.

why was medical marijuana use approved in Pennsylvania?

Studies have shown that medical marijuana can assist patients suffering from certain serious medical conditions by alleviating pain and improving their quality of life.
 

What is a “serious medical condition” under the Act?

The statute defines a “serious medical condition” as any one of the following:
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Intractable Seizures
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuropathies
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • 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
  • Sickle Cell Anemia

Does the Medical Marijuana Program protect against federal prosecution?

No. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has the authority to enforce civil and criminal federal laws relating to marijuana possession and use, regardless of state law. Growing, distributing, and/or possessing marijuana in any capacity, except through a federally-approved research program, is a violation of federal law, and no state or local law provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law. In light of current DOJ guidance, however, it may be unlikely that federal authorities would bring civil enforcement actions or criminal investigations and prosecutions against growers/ processors, dispensaries, physicians, seriously ill individuals or caregivers as long as they are acting pursuant to the Act. A memorandum from the DOJ, dated August 29, 2013, explains the priorities of federal authorities regarding marijuana possession and use, including state medical marijuana programs. 


When will the department begin issuing regulations to implement the Medical Marijuana Program?

Temporary guidelines for the Safe Harbor provision of Act 16 of 2016 have been published. The department is drafting the temporary regulations that are needed to implement the Act. Those temporary regulations will explain the program’s operation, including how applications are to be submitted by growers/processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers, and physicians, and will be in place for two years from the date they are published. During that time period, the department will be preparing to issue formal regulations. The department intends to publish the temporary regulations sequentially, addressing the requirements for growers/processors so that those entities can come online and begin to produce products, then detailing requirements for dispensaries and physicians, followed closely by requirements for the registration of caregivers and patients. 
 

When will applications to become growers/processors, dispensaries, patients, caregivers and registered physicians become available?

The department began the process of implementing the state’s Medical Marijuana Program when Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3 into law on April 17, 2016. The implementation of the program is expected to be complete by early 2018. When implementation is completed, patients who are residents of Pennsylvania and under a Pennsylvania-licensed physician’s care for the treatment of one of the 17 serious medical conditions, may lawfully and safely obtain medical marijuana in the commonwealth as permitted by the Act. Applications for growers/processors and dispensaries are expected to become available during the first quarter of 2017.
 
 

 

FAQ for patients and caregivers  

Who will be able to obtain medical marijuana?

Under the Medical Marijuana Program, patients who are residents of the commonwealth and have a serious medical condition as certified by a physician will be able to obtain medical marijuana at approved dispensaries that are located in the commonwealth and have a validly-issued permit from the department.
A "caregiver" who is designated by the patient and approved by the department will be able to obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary located in the commonwealth that has a validly-issued permit from the department in order for the caregiver to deliver medical marijuana to the patient.
 

Who is considered a "caregiver" under the Act?

The Act defines a “caregiver” as an individual, 21 years of age or older unless otherwise authorized by the department, who is designated by a patient or, if the patient is under 18 years of age, an individual that is a parent or legal guardian of the patient, or an individual designated by a parent or legal guardian, or an appropriate individual approved by the department upon a sufficient showing that no parent or legal guardian is appropriate or available. Caregivers must undergo a criminal history background check, submit an application to the department for an identification card, and be registered with the department. The department will make applications for caregivers available on its website. 

How may patients participate in the Medical Marijuana Program?

In order to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program, patients must: 
1. Register with the department. 
2. Obtain a physician’s certification that they suffer from one of the 17 serious medical conditions, as defined in the Act. 
3. Apply for a medical marijuana ID card and submit the application fee. 
4. Obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary located in the commonwealth that has a valid permit issued by the department. 
(This process is still being developed by the department. The department will communicate with the public as the registration process becomes available.)
 

How will patients apply for medical marijuana identification cards?

The department is currently working to develop the process to obtain a medical marijuana ID card. The department will make it as easy as possible for patients to apply for a medical marijuana ID and will make applications available to patients on its website. The department will communicate to the public when the application is available.
 

CAN patients with serious medical conditions receive medical marijuana if they are under 18?

Yes. Patients under the age of 18 with a serious medical condition may obtain medical marijuana through a caregiver. For patients under the age of 18, a caregiver may be a parent or legal guardian, a person designated by a parent or guardian, or an individual approved by the department upon a sufficient showing that no parent or legal guardian is appropriate or available. The caregiver must undergo a criminal history background check, apply to the department for an identification card, and be registered with the department. The patient must also have an identification card issued by the department. The department will make applications available to patients on its website. 
 

Can someone else obtain medical marijuana on behalf of a patient?

Yes. When a patient submits an application to the department for an identification card, he or she may designate up to two caregivers. Caregivers must undergo a criminal history background check, submit an application to the department for an identification card, and be registered with the department. The department will make applications for caregivers available on its website. There is a $50 processing fee for caregiver applications, but the department may waive or reduce the fee if the applicant demonstrates financial hardship on the application.
 

Can a caregiver be designated by more than one patient?   

Yes. A caregiver may be designated by up to five patients. Before obtaining medical marijuana for a patient, however, a caregiver must apply for and obtain a medical marijuana identification card and be registered with the department.
 

Where will patients or caregivers obtain medical marijuana?   

Registered patients or caregivers with an identification card issued by the department may purchase medical marijuana at an approved dispensary that has a valid permit from the department and is located in the commonwealth. The department may issue permits to up to 50 dispensaries across the state. Each dispensary may have up to three locations in the state from which to dispense medical marijuana.
 

Will there be enough medical marijuana for all approved patients and caregivers?   

The department will be reviewing a number of factors to determine the placement of dispensaries across the state in order to ensure that medical marijuana is available for patients with serious medical conditions. The department will be conducting a full population study during the next six months that will include: (1) the location and number of patients suffering from serious medical conditions; and (2) their ability to access public transportation to get to a dispensary.
 

Can patients obtain medical marijuana from out of state and transport it back to Pennsylvania while they wait for it to become available in this state?

Only a minor under 18 years of age with a serious medical condition may obtain medical marijuana from another state through a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse. For up to two years following the effective date of the Act, Section 2106 of the Medical Marijuana Act provides that if a parent, legal guardian, caregiver or spouse of a minor under 18 years of age with a serious medical condition lawfully obtains medical marijuana from another state, territory or country to be administered to that minor, the parent, legal guardian, caregiver or spouse does not violate the Act, or the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. The form of marijuana obtained in the other state must be in the form made lawful by Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program. Patients, parents, legal guardians, caregivers and spouses also must comply with the application and certification requirements of the Act, as developed by the department. The department intends to publish a temporary regulation regarding the implementation of Section 2106. 
 
Neither Section 2106 nor the Act permits adult patients 18 years of age and older, or their caregivers, to obtain medical marijuana from another state. For adult patients 18 years of age and older, medical marijuana may only be obtained from a department-approved and permitted dispensary located in the commonwealth as permitted by the Act. 

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 2106, the department developed and published temporary guidelines to provide parents, legal guardians, caregivers and spouses of minors with a Safe Harbor Letter, indicating that they can obtain and administer medical marijuana in the commonwealth to a minor. Parents, legal guardians, caregivers and spouses may apply for a Safe Harbor Letter. The application is currently available at www.health.pa.gov. 

The department urges caution if a parent, legal guardian, caregiver or spouse chooses to obtain medical marijuana in another state for a minor under the age of 18 with a serious medical condition. The department has no authority or ability to monitor the quality of medical marijuana lawfully available or obtained in another state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to firms that market unapproved new drugs or forms of marijuana that are not approved by the FDA for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease.
 
 

 

FAQ for those interested in becoming approved grower/processor


What are the requirements to become an approved grower/processor of
medical marijuana in Pennsylvania?

 
The department is allowed to issue permits initially for no more than 25 growers/processors. No more than five grower/processors may also be issued a dispensary permit.
 
The application process requires an applicant – at a minimum – to:
  • Apply for a permit with the department before growing/processing marijuana. 
  • Provide information in the permit application, including, but not limited to:
    • description of business organization and activities;
    • federal and state criminal background check;
    • statement indicating the applicant is of good moral character;
    • ability to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse or other illegal conduct; and 
    • provide a diversity plan.
  • Complete a two-hour training course.
  • Submit a permit application with:
    • initial non-refundable fee of $10,000
    • permit fee of $200,000, which is refundable if the permit is not granted; and 
    • proof of $2 million in capital ($500,000 of which must be on deposit in a financial institution).
As permitted by the Act, the department may provide for other requirements through temporary regulations that will be issued before the application process begins. The department is expecting to release the application for growers/processors during the first quarter of 2017.
 

FAQ for those interested in becoming approved dispensaries


What are the requirements to become an approved dispensary of
medical marijuana in Pennsylvania?

 
The department will issue permits initially for no more than 50 dispensaries. Each dispensary may have no more than three separate locations.
 
The application process requires an applicant – at a minimum – to:
  • Apply for a permit with the department before dispensing marijuana. 
  • Provide information in the permit application, including, but not limited to:
    • description of business organization and activities;
    • federal and state criminal background check;
    • statement indicating the applicant is of good moral character;
    • ability to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse or other illegal conduct; and 
    • provide a diversity plan.
  • Complete a two-hour training course.
  • Submit a permit application with:
    • initial non-refundable fee of $5,000
    • permit fee of $30,000, which is refundable if the permit is not granted; and 
    • proof of $150,000 in capital.
As permitted by the Act, the department may provide for other requirements through regulation. The department is expecting to release the application for dispensaries during the first quarter of 2017.
 
 

FAQ for physicians

How can a physician participate in the Medical Marijuana Program? When will applications be available?

In order to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program, a physician must:
  • Apply to the department to be registered with the program.
  • Demonstrate to the department by training or expertise that he or she is qualified in treating serious medical conditions.
  • Successfully complete the required four-hour course established by the department.
  • Hold a valid, unexpired, unrevoked, unsuspended Pennsylvania license to practice medicine.

The department is developing the process for a physician to register with the Medical Marijuana Program. The department will make it as easy as possible for physicians to participate in the program and will make applications available to physicians on its website. The department will communicate once the application is available.
 

WHAT WILL THE EDUCATION PROCESS BE FOR PHYSICIANS WHO WANT TO REGISTER WITH THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM TO ISSUE CERTIFICATIONS TO ELIGIBLE PENNSYLVANIAS TO USE MEDICAL MARIJUANA?

The Department of Health will be developing a four-hour training course for physicians regarding the latest scientific research on medical marijuana, including the risks and benefits of using medical marijuana and other information deemed necessary by the department.
 
 

Will the DOH website contain a list of registered physicians?

The department will establish and maintain an electronic database that includes a list of physicians that are registered with the program.
 
 

 

additional information on Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program

Who will assist the department in making changes to the Medical Marijuana
Program in Pennsylvania?

The new law creates the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board within the Department of Health. Members include the Secretary of Health; the Physician General; State Police Commissioner; Chair of the State Board of Pharmacy; Commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs; President of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association; President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association; members to be appointed by the Governor and six appointees from the legislative caucuses who are knowledgeable and experienced in issues relating to care and treatment of individuals with a serious medical condition, geriatric or pediatric or clinical research. One member appointed by the Governor shall be a patient, a family or household member of a patient or a patient advocate. 
 

What else will the Medical Marijuana Program do for Pennsylvania? 

The Act provides for funding for research institutions to study the use of medical marijuana to treat other serious conditions. It establishes an advisory committee that will review these research findings and make recommendations to the legislature for changes to the Act. In addition to funding for implementation and research, the Act further provides revenue to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services, as well as to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for distribution to local police departments.
 
 

additional questions?

 
Please send us an email at RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov if you have a question that has not been addressed by the information above.