Understanding Medical Marijuana Laws In Pennsylvania

Understanding Medical Marijuana Laws In Pennsylvania

The Medical Marijuana Act was approved in Pennsylvania by majority vote last year, and it came into effect on May 18, 2016.

The medical marijuana program in expected to be fully implemented by early 2018, and mid-April is when patients would be able to pick up marijuana at their local stores.

The state Department of Health has announced that  medical marijuana dispensaries are likely to be set up in several locations. Each dispensary permit holder is permitted to set up three locations.

Federal Law Bans Medical Marijuana

In the last few decades, the United States has substantially changed its stance on marijuana. Today, almost 21 percent of its population lives in a state that has legal marijuana. While eight states along with the District of Columbia have recreational marijuana, and 29 others have legal medical marijuana.

But medical marijuana is still illegal as per federal law.

Congress amended a 2015 law to prohibit use of federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. This meant that for the 2015 fiscal year, the Department of Justice could not use any funds to prevent states “from implementing their own state law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Congress has extended the amendment in each year since.

This could change come December 8.

Congress has time till then to decide if the amendment is to be included in a bill that will fund the government for the next fiscal year.  Reports indicate that the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to end medical marijuana by this year-end. He has said that he will consider analyses on use of medical marijuana but added he wasn’t optimistic.

Getting Medical marijuana In Pennsylvania

Patients of the following conditions can qualify for medical marijuana:

  • Any form of terminal illness or cancer
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • epilepsy,
  • inflammatory bowel disease & Crohn’s disease,
  • post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • glaucoma,
  • autism or
  • severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin

Patients can qualify for the program if they are under ongoing care of a physician who can issue a certification during an in-person visit.

The certification must make clear that the patient has a qualifying medical condition and the physician is of the belief that the patient can benefit from medical marijuana.

Physicians are required to complete a four-hour long course and must report if a patient doesn’t need medical marijuana any longer, due to death or health improvements.

Availability Of Marijuana In The State

Medical marijuana can be consumed in form of

  • pills
  • oils
  • gels & creams
  • tinctures
  • liquid and
  • non-whole plant forms for consumption through vaporization.

Dispensaries are not allowed to sell edibles, but medical marijuana products are allowed to be mixed into food or drinks for better digestion. Vaporization is also allowed, but smoking is prohibited.

Rules Regarding Health insurance

Both private health insurers and government medical assistance programs need not reimburse costs related to use of medical marijuana or any costs an employer may have related to accommodations for medical marijuana in the workplace.

Employee/Employer  Rights And Duties

Employers are not allowed to dismiss, refuse to hire, or discriminate in any way employees who have been certified for medical marijuana. Employers are however not required to put in any provisons for accommodation regarding use of medical marijuana on job locations.

State law contains provisions allowing employers to discipline those workers who are under the influence of the drug at work and their performance is below what is expected of the employee’s position.

Process For Getting Medical Marijuana

Individuals seeking medical marijuana must register themselves with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and obtain a certification from their physician that they suffer from a qualifying medical condition. They must then apply for a medical marijuana ID card submitting a $50 fee. This card is to be used for procuring medical marijuana from state-approved dispensaries.


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