Pubdate: Mon, 18 Apr 2016
Source: Times-Tribune, The (Scranton PA)
Copyright: 2016
Author: Robert Swift


Official: 2 Years to Implement Law

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania now needs to create a new state-regulated 
industry over the next two years with the governor's signing Sunday 
of a law legalizing use of medical marijuana for patients and 
academic research.

This landmark law envisions a role for hospitals, universities and 
academic medical centers researching the best use of medical 
marijuana to treat diseases. The state Department of Health under the 
helm of Secretary Karen Murphy, R.N., Ph.D., a Scranton native, takes 
the lead role in regulating medical marijuana.

It will take up to two years for the department to fully implement 
the law, said deputy Health Secretary Loren Robinson, M.D. The 
department is providing information about the law at its website

The debate over the legislation focused on the plight of families 
seeking legal access to marijuana to help children suffering with 
conditions such as epilepsy and seizures.

These families now will turn their attention to making sure the 
program works and helps as many people as possible, said Latrisha 
Bentch, a member of Pennsylvania Campaign for Compassion, an advocacy group.

Because Pennsylvania is the 24th state to establish a legal cannabis 
program, the law reflects some of the trial-and-error lessons learned 
by officials in states that already have cannabis programs, 
legislative sponsors said.

The new law also contains numerous provisions to control and regulate 
medical marijuana from the growing stage to its use as an oil, pill 
or liquid by certified patients with specific medical conditions.

The controls are similar in some ways to a law enacted a dozen years 
ago creating another new and heretofore illegal industry in 
Pennsylvania: casino gambling.

Several provisions aim at keeping medical marijuana out of unsavory 
hands, just like controls in the 2004 casino law. Those provisions in 
the new medical marijuana law include:

Require criminal background checks for principals, operators, 
employees and financial backers of medical marijuana organizations 
and designated caregivers for patients. Background checks are free 
for caregivers.

A statement that an applicant for a medical marijuana organization 
permit is of "good moral character."

Department can deny caregiver card applications for criminal 
convictions related to possession or sale of drugs within the past 
five years or histories of drug abuse.

Create new offenses of criminal diversion of medical marijuana, 
adulteration of medical marijuana, falsification of identification cards.

There are consumer protections under the new law, too.

Medical marijuana sales to patients are exempt from the state sales 
tax. The health department will track prices and have the authority 
to cap prices for a set period if it finds them excessive or unreasonable.

Under the new law, the permit holders are required to electronically 
track the movement of marijuana from the seeds cultivated by a grower 
to sales by a dispensary to a patient. The health department will 
have access to this information.

This provision evokes state laws passed in the 1980s requiring 
manifests to track the movement of industrial hazardous wastes to 
disposal facilities.

"I had to reassure my colleagues we would be tracking this stuff," 
said Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48, Lebanon, the law sponsor.

There has been less emphasis on the economic impact of medical marijuana.

"I think there is going to be a boomlet of jobs," said former Lt. 
Gov. Mark Singel.

Mr. Singel is president of the Winter Group, a Harrisburg consulting 
firm that announced a partnership last month with MedMen, a medical 
marijuana management and consulting firm.

The employees in this new industry will work for up to 25 growing and 
processing firms permitted under the law, 50 dispensaries, which each 
could operate three locations, and five firms with a permit to grow, 
process and dispense medical marijuana.

In turn, those state licensees will use the services of engineers, 
health care providers, transportation and inventory specialists and 
botanists to meet the requirements of the law, said Mr. Singel.

Pennsylvania will be following in the footsteps of nations like 
Israel in developing a research arm for medical marijuana, said state 
Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald.

"Clearly we have the lab capacity," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom