FILE PHOTO: Photographs of marijuana plants are on the wall beside shelves of product displays during an open house and media availability for the opening of CY+ Medical marijuana Dispensary, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 in Butler, Pa.
Brett Sholtis is a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.
(Harrisburg) — People with medical marijuana cards in Pennsylvania can get up to three months’ worth of cannabis, rather than a one-month supply, under a bill Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Wednesday.
“It’s been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program’s successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law,” Wolf said. “This legislation provides important updates to our state’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication.”
One provision of the law, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Paul Schemel of Franklin County, allows companies that grow and process marijuana to remove contaminants such as mold and yeast from cannabis plants and process those plants into “topical” products.
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Rep. Paul Schemel, R-Franklin County, was among the Republican state legislators who supported Donald Trump’s 2020 election-fraud lie by signing a letter urging members of Congress to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes going to Joe Biden. That lie led to the attack on the Capitol. Schemel now says voters can trust the state’s electoral system, but he does not disavow the claims made in the letter. The election-fraud lie led to the attack on the Capitol.
That raises concerns for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws regional organizer Chris Goldstein. He says the bill is “industry driven” and doesn’t address patients’ issues.
“What was surprising was how quick this bill moved and how broad it became,” Goldstein said. “There was no testimony taken from patients or caregivers during the senate or house hearings.”
Goldstein said he would like to see more research proving the safety of the extraction process that removes contaminants from moldy cannabis.
Additionally, he said he has questions about a provision that allows companies that sell medical marijuana to designate workers as “caregivers” so that they can deliver marijuana to people’s homes.
He isn’t opposed to home delivery — it’s common in some other states, he notes. Rather, he’s worried that it could lead to additional costs down the road, something he says many patients can’t afford. He said those costs are already higher than in most states, pricing out some people.
“At $400 an ounce, I can tell you that working class people can’t afford it,” he said.
Medical marijuana user Brian Brown shares those concerns about cost and product quality. He said the law does some things that help patients — such as making home delivery easier — but he’s disappointed with what it doesn’t do.
He said people should have the option to grow their own cannabis, where they can control the quality themselves.
“It doesn’t really require much on government’s part to just allow people to grow weed in their house,” Brown said.