BLOG: Medical marijuana bureau searching for director

David Weissman

The search is on for the head of Pennsylvania's new medical marijuana program.

Gov. Tom Wolf, center, flanked by Lolly Bentch, left, and Dana Ulrich, both mothers of young children suffering from epilepsy, signs the medical cannabis bill into law in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state Department of Health posted a job opening for the director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana on Friday, and applications will be accepted until May 20. The department is anticipating making a final decision on the position by mid-July, according to spokesman Wesley Culp.

The full-time, salaried position will pay between $76,519 and $116,265 annually, according to the posting, and will include responsibilities associated with policy development, management, operations and research.

Essentially, whoever takes on this position will be tasked with overseeing the establishment of this new program and then continued oversight as it evolves.

Steven Schain, a Philadelphia-based attorney who spoke as a panelist at a recent cannabis conference, said the department should be looking for a candidate who not only has an established regulatory and commerce background but is also "a cheerleader" for the industry.

"This is the person who will be charged with launching and sustaining this program," Schain said. "We need someone who wants to support it, especially with getting the medical community involved."

Doctors: Medical support has been an issue in medical cannabis industry, particularly in New York, where the state's Department of Health requires practitioners to pass a four-hour course, which only 556 physicians have done as of May 2, according to the department's website.

BLOG: Class I holding all canna-business back

Dr. David Casarett, a Penn Medicine director who also spoke as a panelist at the cannabis conference, said doctors are hesitant to prescribe marijuana to patients because it hasn't been fully researched.

The state Department of Health's posting does require the director of the new bureau to develop and maintain relationships with groups including local public health departments and health care providers.

"The department is excited to work with the public, our partners and the medical community to bring the best medical resources available to all Pennsylvanians," Culp wrote in an email. "We are currently working to get the temporary regulations in place, and once we select a new director, that person will be instrumental in moving the process forward and finishing final regulations."

Culp added that the department is still developing a staffing for the bureau.

"We will create the number of positions necessary to ensure that this bureau works as efficiently and effectively as possible," he wrote.

The new director will also need 10+ years of work experience and 7+ years of management experience, according to the job posting.

Though medical marijuana programs are still a fairly new concept in many states throughout the country, Schain said there are people who helped launch or build successful programs in states including Washington and Colorado that Pennsylvania might consider for the position.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid. Like the blog on Facebook at The CannaBiz Kid.