Pubdate: Tue, 19 Jul 2016
Source: Pottstown Mercury (PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Mercury, a Journal Register Property
Author: Rick Kauffman


UPPER MERION - Passage of legislation that legalized medical 
marijuana in Pennsylvania marked the end of seven long, hard years of 
negotiation. Now that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed the measure into law, 
the push is on to explain the ramifications, including possible 
business opportunities tied to the medical marijuana field.

Wolf, who had adamantly backed the bill through approval by both the 
House and Senate, swiftly added his signature, which made the bill law.

That kicked off the long process of working within the boundaries 
that the Commonwealth agreed upon to bring cannabis to medical 
patients. Doctors will need to be certified; growers and processors 
will need to establish a business model; and licenses for 150 
dispensaries will be issued in the next year.

Recently, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 3, Sen. Daylin Leach, 
D17th Dist, held a regulatory conference bringing cannabis 
entrepreneurs, medical professionals, patients, advocates and data 
analysts from all over the country to help shape the regulations on 
the front-end of discussions in bringing pot to the people of Pennsylvania.

"There's public comment at the end of regulatory periods, but it's 
not the same as coming up with recommendations before the regulations 
are drafted and to interact with other people who might have a 
different opinions," Leach said.

John Kagia, the director of Industry Analytics of New Frontier, a 
data-collection firm that monitors medical marijuana sales, arrived 
from Washington, D.C., to express the importance of an open and 
transparent system.

"We want to share our perspective on the role that a robust, 
transparent process plays in the success of the program, and the role 
that being able to collect and publicly disseminate data on the 
programs, how valuable that is in ensuring that all of the 
stakeholders in the industry are able to effectively structure their 
respective roles," Kagia said.

Many of the specifics of regulating medical marijuana will be 
refined, down to including the details of what fungicides or 
pesticides were used in the process, to which kind of childsafe 
containers the medication should come in.

Kagia added that the process doesn't simply apply to the 
manufacturing and dispensing side of the medical marijuana business, 
but especially to the "regulators and the legislators who need the 
data in order to tell if a program is doing what it's set up to do."

While the law may be in effect, medical care organizations can 
continue to use their own discretion in recommending or prescribing 
medical marijuana to patients. Adrienne Leasa administrates Pennsylvania

Cannabis Patients and Caregivers Union, a group that teaches patients 
how to make hash oil concentrates and how to obtain it if they reside 
in legal states.

"Most of the large health care organizations in Pennsylvania have 
come out and said they will not let their doctors come out and 
prescribe medical marijuana," Leasa said. "That's a huge roadblock."

Leasa, a Downingtown, Chester County resident, was one of many 
patients in attendance who said it was important to be involved in 
the regulatory process. After contracting Cryptococcal meningitis due 
to a severely compromised immune system after contracting AIDS, Leasa 
said it took only nine months to get to an undetectable viral load.

"Basically without treatment I would have died in six weeks," Leasa 
said. "It takes most full-blown AIDS patients six to 10 years, and I 
used cannabis oil along with my antiretrovirals, that's the only difference."

On the business-side, many professionals are finding a new frontier 
in Pennsylvania as the medical marijuana industry grows. Justin 
Carey, Vice President of Strategy for Pa. Wellness, a 
Philadelphia-based consulting firm in the medical cannabis
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