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The Latest on Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Regulations

By Zach Glaser

Draft regulations for dispensaries were posted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health yesterday, giving people until November 4 to provide feedback. Eventually, there may be as many as 50 licensed dispensaries in Pennsylvania, with up to three locations each.  Highlights of the draft regulations include:

  • Dispensaries must not be located within 1000 feet of a public, private or parochial school or day care center;
  • Employees must be at least 18 years of age;
  • A doctor or pharmacist must be present at the facility at all times when the facility is open to receive patients or caregivers;
  • If a dispensary is authorized to operate more than one facility under its permit (up to three facilities may be operated by a single dispensary) a physician assistant or nurse practitioner may be present onsite of the other locations in lieu of the doctor or pharmacist;
  • Plans of operation must be completed and approved by the Department of Health prior to commencement of operations, including employment policies and procedures, security policies and protocols, protocols for shipping and receiving, workplace safety, sanitation, inventory and internal investigations.
  • Video surveillance in facilities, professionally monitored alarm systems and GPS tracking equipment for transportation

Of particular note is the requirement that each facility have a doctor or pharmacist on the premises at all times. Because medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, it may be difficult for dispensaries to find doctors, as many fear repercussions from the federal government. In addition, the financial burden on the operating budgets of these dispensaries will be considerable. Expect most dispensaries to operate the maximum number of facilities permitted (three), so as to reduce this financial burden by hiring physicians assistants or nurse practitioners at the additional facilities.

On April 17, 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 16, legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania with an implementation plan expected to take 18 to 24 months. Though qualifying adults should not expect to obtain medical marijuana until the program is fully operational in 2018, the Commonwealth has already issued 103 safe harbor letters to parents and caregivers of children suffering from epilepsy and other serious illnesses to obtain medical marijuana from outside of Pennsylvania.

Draft regulations for growers and processors are expected to be published on the Department of Health website and in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Act 16 allows for up to 25 marijuana growers and processors in Pennsylvania.