Pa. officials working to get temporary regs in place for medical marijuana

Katherine Ranzenberger
  • Minors in Pa. may obtain medical marijuana in other states.
  • Officials are reviewing applications for director for the medical marijuana program.
  • Public feedback via online survey is welcome for how to run the program.

Getting stakeholders such as physicians, patients and growers involved in forming temporary regulations for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is a top priority for Pennsylvania Department of Health officials.

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

Dr. Karen Murphy, secretary of health in Pennsylvania, said the department hopes to have a director in place and temporary regulations for medical marijuana up and running by July. However, the first set of regulations will benefit only minors and those looking to grow and process, Murphy said.

"Patients will register with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and have an ID card issued to them," Murphy said at a conference Wednesday. "We have also started to create temporary regulations for growers and processors so we have product in the commonwealth. We're hoping to have the rest of the temporary regulations in place by the end of the year."


Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy

So far, the Department of Health has had about 100 queries from people finding out how they can become a grower and processor. The department has regulations set in Act 16, the medical marijuana law, to initially issue no more than 25 grower and processor permits. No more than five of those growers and processors also can be issued a dispensary permit.

"Our vision is to have a high quality, efficient and compliant medical marijuana program for Pennsylvania residents with serious medical conditions as defined by Act 16," Murphy said. "We are also committed to being transparent and communicating effectively throughout the process with the public, stakeholders and our partners and are very interested in their feedback as we develop temporary regulations."

Feedback: To get that feedback from people, Murphy said, the department has created surveys that will be posted frequently on the department's website. Each month, a new survey will appear for two weeks.

This month's survey is specifically geared toward growers and processors. It is open until June 15. Questions on the survey include asking about regulations for facilities, inventory systems and tracking transportation of the product.

Other temporary regulations will follow sequentially for dispensaries, physicians, and patients and their caregivers. The department is looking to work with physicians to make sure they're comfortable prescribing medical marijuana and go through the proper training for prescribing, Murphy said.

Medical marijuana now legal in Pa.

Minors: Section 2106 of Act 16 is a safe haven law for parents and caregivers who need to provide medical marijuana for a child. This section of the act is going to be implemented in July along with grower and processor regulations, Murphy said, because minor patients need a better quality of life now.

"The important part right now is getting those children the help they need," she said. "It will be legal (to transport medical marijuana) once we publish 2106."

That section says if parents or caregivers of minors lawfully obtain medical marijuana from another state, territory or country to be given to their child, that person does not violate Act 16 or the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. If the parents or caregivers do obtain medical marijuana from another area, it must be in a form approved by Act 16, including oils, pills and topical forms.

The nearest places where medical marijuana is legal are Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Delaware.

Director: Murphy said the Department of Health has received more than 120 applications for the position of director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana. The department is reviewing applications now.

BLOG: Medical marijuana bureau searching for director

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.

Murphy said the department hopes to have that position filled by the end of the summer.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.