As Pennsylvania implements Act 16, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, there has necessarily been a lot of excitement, a lot of interest, and a lot of people trying to find ways to make money. The grow and dispensary licenses have been referred to as “a license to print money.” While that may or may not be true, there are clearly many opportunities to participate in the medical cannabis marketplace.
Unfortunately, we have seen some unscrupulous individuals trying to “cash in” on the hopes and ignorance of sick Pennsylvanians. I have seen physicians advertising that they can make medical marijuana recommendations for Pennsylvania patients. These physicians will charge a consultation fee and allegedly provide some type of assessment and recommendation.
This may sound good at first glance, but it is illegal under Act 16. Act 16 provides specific rules for physicians who want to recommend medical cannabis for their patients. First and foremost, a physician MUST register with the Department of Health. A physician can only do that AFTER completing a 4 hour training course that has yet to be developed. Until a physician completes the training course and registers with the Department he or she CANNOT make a medical cannabis recommendation. Additionally, Act 16 specifically prohibits a physician from advertising that they can make a medical cannabis recommendation.
I know Pennsylvania patients are desperate to legally access Pennsylvania produced medical cannabis products. Our patient population must know that these individuals are simply defrauding them. If a potential patient wants to know whether they may qualify for a medical cannabis recommendation they need look no further than the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Website.
Similarly, there has been a significant amount of confusion and undue optimism about “legal” CBD oil readily available in Pennsylvania.
CBD is cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in both cannabis sativa and its derivatives (marijuana) and cannabis ruderalis (hemp). Some hemp derived products, such as hemp clothing, hemp seeds and hemp milk, are legally sold in the United States. The source material is grown overseas and the processed or refined products are sold in the US.
CBD oil extracted from hemp plants has been gaining in popularity and has been marketed as “legal in all 50 states.” Unfortunately, it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA because it has trace amounts of THC (one could not possibly get “high”, but its enough to trigger the Schedule I classification). Additionally, the CBD oil being sold is extracted from plants grown overseas. Unlike Act 16 with strict testing protocols and pesticide restrictions a patient has absolutely no idea what conditions the hemp plants were grown in. The source plants could have mold, pesticides, commercial fertilizers, etc. Compare and contrast that with a CBD oil produced in Colorado such as Quicksilver which is produced under highly regulated conditions and subject to strict third party testing.
Pennsylvania patients are anxious to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. Unfortunately they must wait for the program to be fully implemented, for physicians to register with the program, and for licensed grows and dispensaries to offer high quality medicines, whether CBD or THC.
Until then, beware the Charlatans and Snake Oil.
Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.
Executive Director, Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society