By Angela Underwood
The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program has set the bar high.
Since the Quaker State legalized medicinal cannabis in 2016, it’s broadened its medical diagnosis to include up to 20 diagnoses including anxiety disorders, glaucoma, opioid dependency, autism, chronic pain, and AIDS. Adding to the litany of reasons has brought in more than $500 million in sales in two years.
Pennsylvania Department of Health Press Secretary Nate Wardle discussed the statewide program, saying the impressive half-billion in revenue in the first 2 years from medical cannabis is because the state program is focused on patients with 23 serious medical conditions.
“We are constantly working to ensure that our program is safe and effective for those in need,” Wardle said. “Our program is a market-based program, allowing individuals to visit the dispensary that best meets their needs.”
And it is only going to get better, he added.
“We are continuing to work to roll out our innovative research program, the first of its kind in the country,” Wardle said. “This program partners academic institutions with medical marijuana entities to conduct research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana on certain conditions.”
He added that the DOH currently has permitted three of these partnerships and are looking to permit five more in the future. Coincidentally, the Minnesota Department of Health just broadened its medical marijuana diagnoses to include chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration.
Wardle said one area the medical marijuana program needs to continue to work on is to assist those who are unable to afford medical marijuana, no matter the cost.
“Once our loan amounts are repaid, we will be able to start a fund to assist those who are medical marijuana cardholders, but financially cannot afford products,” Wardle said.
While PA and northeast states including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have discussed a regional push for recreational use, Wardle said “the DOH is solely focused on our medical marijuana program and getting this form of medicine to patients who need it.”
“In addition, we fully support efforts to remove marijuana from its current classification as a controlled substance,” Wardle said. “Our hope is that these efforts could in the future allow insurance companies to approve medical marijuana as a form of treatment, which would assist Pennsylvanians who currently have to pay out of pocket.”