Medical Marijuana Still Years Away In Pennsylvania, And Medicinal Weed Can't Be Smoked

After fighting for medicinal cannabis rights for over two years, activists and political supporters finally received the support they needed from Pennsylvania's House of Representatives to legalize medical marijuana for residents suffering from certain debilitating conditions. Joining 23 other states and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has already expressed his intention to approve the bill that passed on Wednesday.

And while there is a "safe-haven" provision in the bill that allows parents to treat children with medical marijuana purchased across state lines, lawmakers believe it will be a year or two before any regulated weed shops are open in Pennsylvania. And for anyone in the Quaker State longing to smoke a joint to ease their anxiety, that's not exactly an option. There are several parts of the bill that keep it fairly restrictive compared to other states, including the 17 approved medical conditions that are eligible and the forms in which THC will be made available (hint: there's no smoking involved).

Medicinal Cannabis
Due to provisions laid out in the bill, when medical marijuana dispensaries are legally operated in the state of Pennsylvania, marijuana will not be sold in a form that can be smoked [via Getty Images / Andrew Burton].Limitations

As reported by the Washington Times, the 80-page medical marijuana bill passed by Pennsylvania's House was far from liberal, compared to states like Colorado or Washington. Legal only for medicinal purposes, pot will be limited to patients suffering from one of the following 17 conditions:

  • ALS
  • autism
  • cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • Huntington's disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • intractable seizures
  • intractable spasticity for spinal cord injury
  • multiple sclerosis
  • neuropathic pain/neuropathies
  • Parkinson's disease
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • severe, chronic, untreatable pain
  • sickle cell anemia
Additionally, when marijuana dispensaries do open shop in Pennsylvania, there will be one (very popular) form of weed still unavailable: the kind you can smoke. Luckily, the marijuana industry isn't immune to the advancement of science and technology, so the patients in Pennsylvania have several other options. THC will be available in pill, oil, liquid or "tincture" form. Topical forms (gel, cream and ointment) will be made available. And those who plan on ingesting by way of vaporization or nebulization are safe as well.

No joints, no blunts, no pipes, and no bongs. Traditional smokers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, who happen to suffer from one of the aforementioned conditions, will have to be content with marijuana brownies and means of inhalation that don't burn the throat.

Regulation and Databases

As the local ABC affiliate in Philadelphia reported, the Pennsylvania marijuana legislation passed 149-46. The bill had been going back-and-forth between the House and Senate since May 2015. The extremely paranoid may not trust the program completely, however, as they may see things as "big brother" having their hands on everything.

When the industry is running on all cylinders in Pennsylvania, the state would allow up to 25 growers/processors and 50 marijuana dispensaries (each with as many as three separate locations). Zoning laws will be established (not within 1000 feet of a school, for example), giving the Department of Health the final say. Patients would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana.

The DOH will also be responsible for establishing regulations regarding "the growth, transportation, possession, processing, testing and sale of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania." Such a tracking system includes "a database of all patients approved to use it and all caregivers approved to assist in its use."

Plants legally grown in Pennsylvania will also be a part of an "electronic inventory tracking system" that is also monitored by the Department of Health. As far as taxes are concerned, the bill proposed a 5 percent tax on gross receipts of sales from growers and processors to dispensaries or even another grower/processor.

When is marijuana legal in Pennsylvania?

After the governor signs the bill, it will be another month before medical marijuana is legal in the state. At that time, parents of children who would qualify under the new legislation are legally able to use marijuana medicine, purchased from another state, to help treat their kids.

Lawmakers believe it could take up to two years before all of the regulations are agreed upon and retail medical weed stores are open for business.

In the meantime, four of the six states that border Pennsylvania have already legalized medical marijuana in one form or another. New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland have all legalized some form of medicinal weed. Ohio and West Virginia, however, have not legalized marijuana for any purpose.

[Image via Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]