Pennsylvania is the fifth largest state in the U.S and industry insiders are poised for its medical cannabis market to explode once sales begin. They are still in the preparation stages of launching this market, but things are progressing extremely quickly. In fact, it’s one of the only places where lawmakers have actually managed to be ahead of schedule.
Let’s take a moment to talk about how they got to where they are today.
In 2016, Senate Bill 3 passed by a margin of 149 to 46 in the House, and 42 to 7 in the Senate, and it allowed medical patients to possess up to a 30 day supply of cannabis. It did not allow for home cultivation, and Pennsylvania does not accept patients registered in other states. To become a patient, individuals must receive a recommendation from a physician who is registered with the state and has completed the required training course, and they must register with the state.
Unfortunately, both flower and edibles are prohibited. Consumption is limited to pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquids and forms medically appropriate for vaporization. So there are many options for patients to choose from, but as we’ve seen in New York, people are going to demand flower and edibles at some point.
Pennsylvania has a particularly long list of qualifying conditions to become a cannabis patient and includes ailments with ambiguous definitions, so patient numbers have been predicted to be in the hundreds of thousands. The list includes, ALS, autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intractable seizure, multiple sclerosis, neuropathies, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord damage, and terminal illness.
The business regulations in this state have been described as very heavy. Rules governing cannabis businesses are extensive, detailing operation requirements for testing, packaging, labelling, advertising, zoning, transportation, security, record-keeping and more. All licensed businesses must implement an electronic inventory tracking system that’s accessible to the state, and dispensaries are required to have a physician or pharmacist on-site at all times. These businesses are however allowed to operate for profit.
Application and licensing fees are moderately priced, posing no barrier to businesses who wish to enter the market. Dispensaries will pay 5,000 USD for an application, and 30,000 for a license with a 5,000 renewal fee. However, they must have 150,000 in liquid capital. Cultivators will pay 10,000 for an application, and 200,000 for a license. A grower would have to have 2,000,000 dollars in capital a quarter of which must be liquid. These aren’t the cheapest rates for applications and licenses in the country, but they certainly are not the most expensive.
Spectators expect this market to be large, due to the extensive list of qualifying conditions, which includes chronic pain. Patient numbers are expected to be anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 once the market matures. This is coupled with expectations that once sales begin dispensary sales could be as high as 100 million.
As it stands, 50 dispensary licenses and 25 grower or processor licenses will be issued in Pennsylvania. Each dispensary license holder is authorized to open up to three storefronts, meaning a maximum of 150 dispensaries will be allowed to open throughout the state. Several of the 27 current dispensary license holders have chosen to open multiple locations, with a total of 52 dispensaries expected to open shortly after the program launches.
Additionally, four of the 12 grower or processor licenses and six of the 27 dispensary licenses have been granted to out-of-state companies.
It must be addressed, so I’ll do that now. Will the Jeff Sessions decision to rescind the Cole Memo have an effect on Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis market? In short, no. The governor, Tom Wolf, has pledged to defend the state’s program. And he has said, “We are evaluating the exact impact rescinding the directive could have on Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program but will continue to do everything in my power to protect Pennsylvania’s patients.”
Medical cannabis sales are expected to begin in April if the state keeps up the blistering pace of work that to date it has been executing. Industry spectators are excited for the final unveiling of this market and rightly so. It’s going to be huge.