As Pennsylvania’s cannabis industry takes its first steps forward, the question most doctors and patients are asking is, “Is this program stable and sustainable enough to continue to provide the medicine patients need for the foreseeable future?” Happily the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
A handful of Pennsylvania dispensaries opened their doors in mid-February, and, two weeks later, were largely sold out of many products for a few days. Media critics were quick to report it as evidence that the industry was off to a rocky start. This is a major concern for patients, as it can take some time to find just the right strain, terpene structure, delivery system, and dosage to be most effective. Not having medicine always available is a major concern.
The real story about PA’s launch is quite the opposite according to the director of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, John Collins. He sees the shortage as evidence of how successful the program has been so far and why it is poised for a very bright future. Once the program is fully operational, he and many industry consultants predict that Pennsylvania will set the standard on how to run a sustainable, profitable system that serves hundreds of thousands of patients.
On March 5, 2018, Director Collins spoke at Harrisburg Area Community College at a cannabis event sponsored by the school and the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society. He painted a rosy picture of the successes so far and on the road ahead.
The program was launched by Gov. Wolf’s signature on April 17, 2016. Just 22 months later, the first handful of dispensaries opened their doors, two months earlier than predicted and at a pace much faster than most states have been able to achieve.
Collins touted this quick launch as one of the program’s successes. In phase 1, the state awarded permits for 27 dispensaries, each with up to three locations, and 12 grower/processors, which will produce all of the medicine sold on PA shelves. Phase 2 was announced in March; it will add another 13 grower/processors and 23 dispensaries.
Just three months after patient and physician registries opened, Collins explained, the numbers told a tale of success:
Over 21,000 patients have registered with the program’s website to begin the process of getting a patient’s card. Upwards of a thousand people a day continue to sign up.
Over 6,000 of those have visited a physician to verify they have one of the 17 qualifying conditions and have been issued a card.