Governor Tom Wolf recently signed the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act legalizing the use of medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes in the state of Pennsylvania. The new law took effect on May 17, 2016.
This law established a medical marijuana program for patients with “serious medical conditions.” The law identifies 17 specific conditions that medical marijuana can be used to treat, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s disease, intractable seizures, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and sickle cell anemia. In order to qualify for medical marijuana, a patient will need to be under the care of a doctor registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the doctor must provide a signed certification that the patient has one of the identified serious medical conditions. The patient will then have to apply to the Department of Health for an identification card, which will allow the patient to purchase medical marijuana at an authorized dispensary. The law allows for permits to be issued to up to 50 dispensaries, each of which is permitted to have 3 locations, for a maximum of 150 dispensaries in Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana can be dispensed in the form of pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, liquids, tinctures and vaporization under the new law, but smoking remains illegal.
While medical marijuana is now legal under Pennsylvania law, patients will not be able to actually obtain medical marijuana until the Pennsylvania Department of Health drafts and then implements regulations governing the state’s medical marijuana program. This full regulatory process is expected to take between 18 and 24 months, though temporary regulations will be released this year. These regulations will provide further guidance on the distribution and use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Of particular interest to employers, the new law contains a provision prohibiting discrimination or retaliation in employment on the basis of an employee being certified to use medical marijuana. However, the law also allows employers to impose limits on an employee’s use of medical marijuana in the workplace and in work-related settings. The new law raises many questions for employers who may have to deal with employees using medical marijuana that remain unanswered at this time.
Despite the legalization of medical marijuana under Pennsylvania law, the use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.