Medical Weed Gets the Green Light in PA

Published On April 20, 2016 | By Leah Kennedy | Community
forbidden flower

Photo Cred: Dayton Daily News

Last weekend, PA Governor Tom Wolf made history when he signed off on Senate Bill 3, making medical weed legal in the Keystone State; and residents rejoiced over success in a long-fought battle with state government officials.

Pennsylvania is now the 24th state to join nearly half the country in the legal marijuana endeavor… And we certainly won’t be the last. From sick patients, to small business owners, to local economies, a huge chunk of the country has reaped the plant’s extensive benefits.


Photo Cred: PGH NORML

Statewide legalization has allowed for more extensive research studies to determine the plant’s benefits and multifaceted medicinal properties, as well as how benefits can differ from strain to strain versus consumption. The positive aftermath of regulation across the nation has also led government officials, financial experts, business tycoons, medical professionals and enthusiasts alike to hop on the pot train.

The recent success in PA is mainly due to a powerful, highly motivated organic grassroots campaign, created by families with sick children and cannabis activists from every corner of the state. Along with strong support from local officials and solid organizations like Pittsburgh NORML, these families were able to get in front of the right politicians to build and make their case.

While many are celebrating the PA victory, others have debated the bill’s shortcomings and overall effectiveness of impact on its residents. Below is a quick run-down of the bill and who will benefit once the program gets up and running:

Qualifying Patients


Photo Cred: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Patients with varying chronic and terminal illnesses are able to qualify for a medical cannabis card. As listed in the SB3 summary, qualifiers include:

  • cancer;
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • epilepsy;
  • inflammatory bowel disease;
  • neuropathies;
  • Huntington’s disease;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • intractable seizures;
  • glaucoma; autism;
  • sickle cell anemia;
  • damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord;
  • severe chronic/intractable neuropathic pain/an alternative treatment for opiate therapy (a possible life-changing benefit for the widespread opiate epidemic in PA)

Dispensaries & Distribution

pgh norml

Photo Cred: PGH NORML

Permits will be given to business owners for up to 50 dispensaries. Each will be permitted to own and operate three individual dispensaries, making for a total of no more than 150 throughout the state of PA. Additionally, the department will issue 25 grower and processor permits. The Department of Health will direct and implement the patient application program, and physicians must complete coursework to qualify for giving patient recommendations.


SB3 goes into effect May 17, 2016, with dispensaries not expected to open before the start of 2017. The bill will be reviewed again in May 2018, with additional recommendations for dry leaf cannabis to be added to its structure.

The Highs


Photo Cred: Vice

Terminally ill patients and sick children will now have direct and immediate access to specified meds, which have been extremely difficult to obtain before the passing of SB3. Several parents in the PA area have had to seek out legal loopholes when obtaining CBD–an extract of the marijuana plant that is used to treat a universal number of diseases and symptoms, as well as several forms of severe child epilepsy disorders such as Dravet Syndrome. CBD has been regarded as a highly effective form of treatment, often drastically reducing and even permanently eliminating child seizure episodes.

Marijuana’s two main components, CBD and THC, are actively being studied for their wide range of effects on the body, cells and brain; and the passing of SB3 will make it easier for PA’s medical community to research and obtain more pertinent info.

In addition, people already using cannabis for treatment won’t have to wait for their meds. With a doctor’s order, they’ll be permitted to gain access to them from various cannabis-friendly states before the system is fully implemented here.

The Downerscannabis oil

Some haven’t been silent in expressing their frustration with the bill’s seemingly limited guidelines and structure for obtaining medical marijuana in PA. In addition to the small number of permits being granted for both dispensaries and growers, cannabis will only be available to patients in limited forms, including pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms (vaporization).

Potential business owners and patients alike anticipate a higher cost to obtain, produce and purchase the meds, as many are exponentially more time consuming to produce without the presence of dry leaf herb or THC. The THC component has been shown to delay and minimize tumor growth in cancer patients, reduce chances of diabetes and obesity, treat depression, and even enhance creativity, among a healthy list of other ailments…

Yet, we still can’t smoke our weed and eat it, too. Currently, Pennsylvanians will not be able to purchase smokeable, dry leaf cannabis; but it’s possible revisions could be made before the program is fully in place, in addition to the DEA’s possible plans to reschedule the drug.

While we still have a long way to go when it comes to cannabis reform, one thing is certain: the seeds have been planted, and the path to progress is now ablaze.

Let us know your feelings on SB3 by leaving your comments, thoughts, suggestions and updates in the Comments section below.

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