In today’s blog post we will be discussing the new draft medical marijuana regulations put out by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and what important changes in the law to look out for.
On April 17th,2016 Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana when Governor Tom Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act, also known as Act 16. Act 16 allows patients to take the medicine by pill, oil, vapor, ointment or liquid. Patients will not be able to get marijuana in a form that can be smoked. Since the bill was signed into law, lawmakers have been working to get regulations in place to help guide industry practices. Thus far the Department of Health has completed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines and Safe Harbor Letter application process, as well as approved 106 applications to date, released public surveys to aid in the development of temporary regulations for growers/processors and dispensaries/laboratories, developed the Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup, and released a request for information for electronic tracking IT solutions for the tracking of medical marijuana. Pennsylvania has just moved a few steps closer to setting up a medical marijuana program as the health department posted draft rules for dispensaries and made temporary regulations for growers and processors open to the public.
The general provisions published by the state Health Department outline the details of the application process, fees, inspections, reporting, advertising and issues surrounding locations and zoning. The temporary rules for growers and processors delve into the minutia of regulatory compliance for a variety of issues: including security, storage, maintenance, transportation, tracking, disposal, recall, pesticides and packaging and safety requirements. A list of pesticides permitted for use can also be found at the bottom of the rules. The rules also layout the requirements for performing voluntary and mandatory recalls in great detail. It requires thorough documentation and standard operating procedures for the disposal of contaminated products, cooperation with the Department of Health and appropriate communications with those affected by the recall.
The rules also require significant security measures for dispensaries, and processing facilities, and growing facilities. It is required that facilities must not be open to the general public and that visitors must present a government-issued photo ID to enter into a facility. The age of employment for these facilities prohibits anyone under the age of 18 to work in or visit a growing or processing facility. These facilities will be under close watch as they must also have an electronic tracking system to monitor inventory of plants and seeds.
The rules also govern the transportation of medical marijuana, disposal of waste, the use pesticides, financial and legal requirements, and where the facilities can be located. Growers will be allowed to import cannabis seedlings during the first 30 days of the program. The state is now divided into six geographical regions, up from three, for the purposes of distributing licenses for grow houses and dispensaries. Dispensaries, the rules say, may not be within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care facility. Dispensaries are also prohibited from being located inside the same physical space or area of another commercial property being operated as a retail business or in buildings adjacent to businesses that share an entrance or exit- this could rule out malls, strip malls, and several commercial buildings. This provision will likely be a point of contention because it could be viewed as exclusionary to dispensaries. In anticipation of the new law and regulations, several municipalities are looking to the future by setting up their own zoning regulations to best promote logical planning for the marijuana industry. Collier Township has recently amended their zoning ordinance to limit medical marijuana ordinance to a single zoning district. Carlisle is another municipality which is taking a proactive approach.Officials in Carlisle are currently working on drafting an ordinance to specifically zone parts of the borough that would be pre-approved to grow and produce medical marijuana.
Some of the other changes outlined by the rules include that the Health Department may issue waivers if “necessary to provide patients with adequate access to medical marijuana,” but going through that process could add months to setting up a business. Next, the word person is defined to clearly include corporations and limited liability companies, which will allow licenses and permits to be sold like liquor licenses to publicly traded businesses. The minimum age of grow-house employees changed from from 21 to 18. Finally, the medical-marijuana delivery personnel will no longer be limited to holders of Pennsylvania driver's licenses.
A survey also is available on the department's website here for patients who will be eligible for the Medical Marijuana Program to help ensure the program will meet their needs. The survey will be available on the Department of Health's website until 5:00 PM on Friday, November 18.
For more information please see the Department of Health website regarding Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. If you have any questions or concerns regarding Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act please contact us at jaclyn@trellispgh or firstname.lastname@example.org.