With the long awaited announcement of the recipients of Medicinal Cannabis Licenses, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania moves ever closer to bringing Act 16 to life, joining a majority of states recognizing the medicinal value of cannabis.
There are many questions about Pennsylvania’s Medicinal Marijuana legislation (Act 16), so we thought we’d address some of the most frequently asked questions here.
Keep in mind, Pennsylvania is treating medicinal cannabis as medicine, subject to the same restrictions and quality control standards for any other medicine available to the public– prescription or otherwise. Because of marijuana’s status as a recreational drug, there are some additional regulations in place to ensure the law is not abused by those simply looking to get high.
1. What are the qualifying medical conditions covered under Act 16?
A serious medical condition is any one of the following listed under the statute:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
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
2. Will I be able to possess and smoke marijuana legally if I have a qualifying condition?
Smoking cannabis is strictly prohibited under the Act. No patient with a recommendation may smoke cannabis. Additionally, dry flower or dry herb is NOT an approved medical marijuana product under Act 16. The DOH can considering dry flower as a “medical marijuana product” but ingestion would be restricted to vaporization and not smoking.
3. Can my current physician recommend medicinal cannabis for me if I have a qualifying condition?
Your physician must be qualified to treat your condition, and you must be under the physician’s “continuing care.” The physician must complete a 4 hour training course approved by the DOH and the physician must register with the DOH. The registration is reviewed annually. (There is a link on DOH website for info to provide your physician)
4. Can I get ‘pre-certified’ for medical cannabis treatment?
The short answer is, No. Check out my recent blog on this topic for more information.
5. What qualifies as an approved medical cannabis delivery method, ie: medicine, under Act 16?
Vaporization, nebulization, oral ingestion of oil or pill, topical. IF a physician recommends a patient MAY incorporate their medical marijuana product in to an “edible” but edibles are otherwise prohibited.
6. Will I be allowed to grow marijuana for personal use to treat a qualifying medical condition?
Absolutely not. PA does not permit “home grow” in any form whatsoever. A single plant is a felony “manufacturing marijuana” offense.
7. Am I allowed to drive if I am a legal medicinal cannabis patient?
Act 16 places a 10 ng/ml limi of active THC. Unfortunately, a patient may find him or herself over this limit merely by using their medicine. A MMJ patient in PA runs a very real risk of a DUI even if using pursuant to their recommendation.
8. Can being a medicinal cannabis patient affect my employment status?
There is no single answer for this question. There are many factors involved, but it basically comes down to issues involving safety, security and insurance coverage. Drug testing is often part of employment contracts. Even if an employer recognizes medicinal marijuana, their insurance provider(s) may not.
Legally speaking, employers have a right to know if an employee is using prescription drugs with deleterious effects, especially jobs involving heavy machinery, driving, law enforcement, EMS personnel, etc.
9. Will medicinal cannabis treatment be covered by my health insurance?
There is no medical insurance coverage for MMJ. Act 16 specifically sets forth that insurance carriers are NOT required to provide coverage.
This doesn’t mean they won’t, but providers have thus far been silent regarding inclusion of MM in their coverage. We suggest contacting your provider for more information.
10. Will medicinal cannabis products be available at my local pharmacy?
No – medical marijuana products will ONLY be available via a licensed dispensary. A patient’s purchases will be tracked preventing a patient from “double dipping”. Medical marijuana products MUST be kept in their original packaging. A patient may only possess up to a 30 day supply.