Legal cannabis is having a moment in the United States and only continues to gain momentum. While cannabis remains a “Schedule I” drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 801, et seq., nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized cannabis in some form, whether for recreational or medical use. During the 2016 election cycle, the voters of several states—including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota—voted in favor of ballot measures that either legalized the use of cannabis or expanded currently existing programs. Neighboring West Virginia is the most recent state to enact medical cannabis legislation, with the Governor signing West Virginia Senate Bill 386, the WV Medical Cannabis Act, in April 2017.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act in April 2016, see Senate Bill 3 of 2016, 35 P.S. Section 10231.101. The act establishes Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, which will allow patients with a “serious medical condition” (defined in 35 P.S. Section 10231.103 to include 17 specific conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, and Autism) to receive a certification to treat with medical marijuana obtained from a licensed dispensary in the commonwealth. Since the act’s passage, the Department of Health has moved at a swift and efficient pace to draft and approve regulations, administer and review permit applications, issue the first round of permits to grower/processors and dispensaries, and register doctors to certify prospective medical marijuana patients.
One of the next major steps for the Program will be the issuance of certifications to patients, allowing individuals to obtain and use medical marijuana. Most industry watchers expect that this will occur in the spring or summer of 2018. That will mark a critical moment for Pennsylvania businesses, as it will be the first time many will have to wrestle with the unique challenge