Pennsylvania increases medical cannabis purchase limits, among other law updates

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

New changes to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis laws are expected to increase the single-visit patient purchase limit by more than three times the existing amount. As a direct effect of providing patients with a  three-month supply as opposed to a 30-day supply dispensaries could increase their earnings and registered patients could gain greater access to their medicine.

Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1024 into law on Wednesday, June 30. HB 1024 responds to amendment suggestions that were initially suggested by the Department of Health. The revisions were proposed as a means of editing the Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into effect back in 2016. 

Pennsylvania’s cannabis law amendments stipulate that patient safety standards will be enhanced, in addition to the quality of products contained in the state’s medical cannabis program. Moreover, the signing of HB 1024 will prompt the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to broaden the state’s list of qualifying conditions.

“It’s been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical [cannabis], and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program’s successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law,” reads an official statement from Gov. Wolf. “This legislation provides important updates to our state’s medical [cannabis] program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication.”

The coronavirus pandemic has had an important influence on the law updates for Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. Following the implementation of temporary cannabis services like curbside pickup and home delivery, Gov. Wolf has proceeded to maintain specific flexibilities that will provide ongoing convenience for dispensaries and patients alike.

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law amendments: Overview of House Bill 1024

Not only will HB 1024’s passing have an impact on retailers and patients but also, on both medical cannabis processors and producers. The bill’s passing will effectively amend the Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into effect by the Governor on April 6, 2016. Highlighted below are are a list of the preliminary provisions for Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program:

  • Improve opportunities for the lawful use of medical cannabis under Pennsylvania’s program; 
  • Provide increased duration for practitioner involvement; 
  • Amplify assistance for patient caregivers; 
  • Increase permit allowance, relocation opportunities and the list of prohibited convictions in medical cannabis organizations;
  • Allow for greater access to medical cannabis controls, such as electronic tracking systems for cultivators, processors, laboratory environments, transportation and storage;
  • Boost cannabis tax designation to the Medical Marijuana Program Fund;
  • Offer extra support for the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, as well as expand regulations based on board recommendations;
  • Further support academic clinical research centers and clinical registrants;
  • Designate more time to providing temporary administration regulations;
  • Clarify prohibited acts in regards to medical cannabis offenses;
  • Increase cannabis retail dispensing for patients and caregivers, as well as augment existing facility requirements;
  • In regards to miscellaneous provisions, further provide for applicability.

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law amendments will reduce contamination waste

Now that Gov. Wolf has signed off on the GOP-backed amendments to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law, a previously imposed rule that forced producers to destroy contaminated cannabis goods has been lifted; thus allowing producers to reduce overall contamination waste. 

“The bill actually has a lot of provisions that are industry friendly, and most controversial is to allow remediation of mold in cannabis flowers by extracting it into new products,” said regional organizer for NORML, Chris Goldstein. He makes a good point, since this element of HB 1024 would simplify the process of stripping contaminants from medical cannabis in Pennsylvania. 

Commonly found contaminants include heavy metals, yeast and various types of fungi, such as mold. Thanks to the rule change, processors can now easily transform contaminated cannabis into ingestible, inhalable and/or topical products. Furthermore, suppliers who can prove the successful lab remediation of plant contaminants will still be allowed to dispense the plant to patients.

The Agriculture Department is also expected to launch a process that determines which pesticides are permitted. Based on the existing Pennsylvania State guidelines for cannabis pesticides, geranium oil, citric acid and cedar oil are a few examples of legal pesticides; featured in Appendix A of Title 28 Pa. Code § 1151.