Today marks an historic day in the Keystone State. Less than two years after the governor signed Act 16 into law, six dispensaries have begun selling medical marijuana to patients and caregivers. Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the country, and those involved in implementation should be applauded for reaching this point ahead of schedule.
To date, 10 dispensaries and 10 grower/processors have been approved to operate. Over the next few months, we expect up to 81 dispensary locations to open across the state. More than 17,000 patients have registered to participate in the medical marijuana program, with nearly 4,000 certified by a physician. As of this week, 708 physicians have registered with the department and 376 have competed the training to become certified practitioners.
However, the implementation process is not yet complete. The Medical Marijuana Advisory Board is still working on its recommendations for changes to the program. This week, they met to discuss one of the most important issues — allowing patient access to medical cannabis flower. This is a vital expansion of the program that will improve patient access and lower costs. Only two states have attempted a medical program without flower, which led to disastrous results for patients. You can learn more about the importance of patient access to flower here.
If you want to learn more about becoming a registered patient, visit the DOH website.
After lengthy delays, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is finally opening the patient registry in a phased rollout beginning on Monday, April 10. Please see below for the full announcement from the Commission. Dispensaries are required to be operational by December 9, 2017.
IMPORTANT NOTE: MEDICAL CANNABIS IS NOT AVAILABLE YET IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND. Pre-approved growers, processors, and dispensaries are still constructing their businesses, and depending on the date these operations commence, the Commission expects that medical cannabis will be available to qualifying patients by the end of summer 2017. The Commission will make a public announcement once medical cannabis is available to the public, and dispensary locations will be listed on the website.
This phased early rollout will allow patients time to establish a bona fide doctor-patient relationship months before any medicine is available. Open enrollment will officially begin on Monday, April 24.
The Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission is working hard to implement Maryland’s medical marijuana program. And it wants your help! The commission has already released draft regulations for informal feedback. Check out the proposed rules for cultivators and physicians.
MPP has already submitted comments on the physician regulations and comments on the cultivator regulations, and there are several concerning areas that need revision. But we want Maryland residents to tell the commission what you think, too. Please email your feedback to email@example.com by Tuesday, August 5.
Among our concerns are:
* An unnecessary training course on medical marijuana for all certifying physicians;
* Mandatory random drug testing for patients; and
* A requirement for physicians to specify dosage and strain type, which may put them at legal risk.
Please keep in mind that these are draft regulations, so they are not final. If you are a Maryland resident, this is a great opportunity to help shape Maryland’s medical marijuana program. Your comments should be specific, respectful, and helpful. Remember to email the commission by August 5.
The Maryland Legislature passed a bill this week that will help protect some patients from conviction if they can prove that their marijuana use was medical. The bill allows patients charged with possession to have their cases dismissed if they can show that they have a diagnosis of a debilitating medical condition from a doctor with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Lesser protections are also included that reduce the penalty in the case of non-debilitating conditions if patients can prove that their use was medical.
In addition, this bill would create a study panel of policy and health experts to look into the best ways to implement a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Maryland in the future.
While the overall bill is less than what we hoped for, it is definitely a step in the right direction. After all, anything that can help keep a patient out of jail is a good thing. The creation of the study panel bodes extremely well for all the medical marijuana patients in the state as well. It is certainly an indicator that lawmakers are willing to work with us on this issue, and are being responsive to the overwhelming support for such a program in Maryland.
The bill is now awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature, which he has already promised.
Medical marijuana patients in the Aloha State could be looking at major improvements to their ability to access their medicine. Last week, two proposals were introduced in the state legislature to augment the 10-year-old law.
Sen. Will Espero proposed a bill that would increase the number of plants a patient can personally grow from four to 10. Patients would also be able to designate a caregiver to grow the same amount of plants instead, and each caregiver would be able to take on up to four patients. This bill would also keep patients' names and grow site locations private, and would allow a person with a qualifying condition to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor other than his or her primary care physician.
A bill that would set up state-licenced compassion centers was also introduced by Sen. J. Kalani English. While the licensing fees and taxes for these businesses would be large, this proposal would be the first of its kind to allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to non-Hawaii residents who are legal medical marijuana patients in their home states.
Of course, the police are fighting this tooth and nail, and are trotting out the same old predictable arguments. According to Sen. Espero, Hawaii lawmakers aren't buying it anymore. And neither is the new governor.