Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jul 2017
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Sam Wood


Walk into a medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey and the first
thing to hit you is the stink.

Weed's scent is a sour blast that seems to reek of citrus, diesel, and
skunk. At the Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge, Middlesex County,
charcoal air purifiers -- encased in gleaming steel and larger than
jet engines -- are strategically placed through the facility. It's
hard to say whether their presence tempers the odor, which is
generated by thousands of cannabis plants growing under lights in the
same building.

In Pennsylvania, patients visiting a dispensary won't smell a thing.
Cannabis storefronts in the Keystone State will be as antiseptically
scented as a doctor's office. That's because smokable plant products
- -- dried weed -- won't be for sale and no marijuana will be grown on
the premises. Dispensaries will sell only sealed oils, tinctures,
pills, lotions and vapor cartridges.

In New Jersey, dispensaries must grow their own marijuana in adjoining
warehouses. That makes the few Garden State cannabis complexes more
aromatic and hard to miss.

In Pennsylvania, dispensaries will operate in smaller, nondescript
buildings. Each business can buy its medication from any of 12
state-permitted grower-processors. If the program isn't derailed by
lawsuits, sales will begin after Jan. 1, 2018.

It will be difficult for passersby to tell what is sold at a
Pennsylvania storefront. Signs will indicate there's some sort of
health care being provided inside, but there won't be a bright neon
green marijuana leaf advertising its presence. The number of
surveillance cameras on the entrances may be the only evidence there's
something valuable for sale.

"If you know what to look for, you'll know there's a dispensary
there," said Patrick Nightingale, a former Allegheny County prosecutor
who is now in private practice and who heads the Pennsylvania Medical
Cannabis Society. "But if you don't, you're unlikely to notice it."

Pennsylvania last week granted permits to 27 businesses to open
dispensaries throughout the commonwealth. The state Department of
Health on Thursday announced the names of the winners and the
locations of 52 proposed storefronts.

Fifteen dispensaries are slated for Philadelphia and its suburbs. Six
are to open in Montgomery County, three in Bucks County, and two each
in Chester and Delaware Counties. Four will open within the city,
including one in East Mount Airy, two in Northeast Philadelphia, and
another in Fishtown near the SugarHouse Casino.

Marcus Roundtree, a cultivation technician, at work staking cannabis
plants in one of Garden State Dispensary's grow rooms.

"The state is doing a great job, keeping up the pace and meeting
deadlines," said Becky Dansky, an attorney with the Marijuana Policy
Project, a nonprofit working to end cannabis prohibition. "It's also
doing a good job insulating itself from the appearance of

The differences between the two state programs will extend far past
the schnoz. For starters, the Pennsylvania law is designed to get
medicine to patients with greater speed than New Jersey's rollout.

The New Jersey cannabis bill was passed in 2010. Yet the Garden State
still has only six operating dispensaries and has signed up only
11,600 patients.

The New Jersey program has been criticized for having "insanely high"
prices, Dansky said, with cost per ounce ranging from $425 to $520,
according to a state analysis. Asked about the cost of cannabis at
Garden State Dispensary, general manager Aaron J. Epstein said he
would tell only patients how much it would cost.

Prices in Pennsylvania will likely be as steep. And possibly higher.
That's because the process of turning medical marijuana into oils and
vape pen cartridges will add costs to production. The cost of a single
vape cartridge can reach $90 in some states; some patients may need
one a day. The state, however, is committed to keeping the products
affordable and can put a price cap on medical marijuana products for
up to six months if they get too expensive, said health department
spokeswoman April Hutcheson. The state also will create a fund to
subsidize patients facing financial hardship.

Among other differences:

* Pennsylvania's law covers more ailments than New Jersey's,
potentially increasing the number of patients who can participate.
Pennsylvania's qualifying conditions include autism, epilepsy,
Parkinson's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell
anemia, Huntington's disease, and neuropathic pain. Both states
include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis,
inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, intractable spasticity,
and terminal illness.

* Pennsylvania's program will mandate regular, independent cannabis
testing to ensure purity and potency.

* Because Pennsylvania dispensaries can buy from any of the 12
in-state marijuana growers, more varieties or strains should be
available for patients to purchase.
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MAP posted-by: Matt