Viewing posts tagged legal

Judge dismisses suit that challenged Pennsylvania medical marijuana program

A state court judge threw out a lawsuit that could have undone Pennsylvania’s nascent medical marijuana program.

The suit was filed in September 2017 by Keystone ReLeaf of Bethlehem, whose bid for a dispensing license failed.

The lawsuit, had it succeeded, could have delayed patient access and the state’s MMJ industry for years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

In the lawsuit, Keystone argued the application process was conducted haphazardly and had been “infected by bias and favoritism” because Pennsylvania’s health department – which managed the application process – had kept the panelists who picked the winners secret.

Keystone’s lawyers said those problems invalidated the application process, according to the newspaper.

The company sought an injunction from the court that would have canceled all grow and dispensary permits awarded by the health department, the Inquirer reported. That would have forced the state to start the process from scratch.

But Judge Michael H. Wojcik dismissed the suit, writing that Keystone should have taken its complaints to the health department before the court, according to the Inquirer.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania medical marijuana businesses may soon sell flower for vaping

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis board has recommended allowing the sale of flower for vaping.

All that stands in the way of MMJ flower sales is a go-ahead from the state’s secretary of health, according to

Adding flower to the list of available products should boost the bottom line of Pennsylvania’s cannabis companies.

Flower is one of the most affordable and commonly purchased forms of cannabis.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The board voted 11-0 to allow “dry leaf or plant form for administration by vaporization.” One member abstained.
  • Pennsylvania’s MMJ businesses currently can sell only oil, pills, tinctures or concentrate for vaping as well as ointments.
  • As of April 6, more than 25,000 MMJ patients were signed up to purchase medical cannabis, and 914 doctors were registered to recommend medical cannabis.
  • The advisory board is also expected to vote on whether to add terminal illness and palliative care to the list of medical conditions that can be treated with MMJ.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania Green Lights Medical Cannabis Program Expansion

There have been issues with launching the medical cannabis program in the state of Pennsylvania, including dispensaries experiencing a shortage of available product for patients. Despite this, the State Department of Health recently announced it would be accepting more applications for new dispensaries and growing operations in April of this year.

According to NBC 10 Philadelphia, 13 permits will be up for grabs for growers and processors, while 23 will be available for dispensaries. In addition to the permits for dispensaries and grow-ops, the expansion of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program will include issuing permits to ‘clinical registrants’ for medical schools and hospitals who are interested in doing tests and much-needed research on the plant medicine.

One of those schools will likely be Thomas Jefferson University, who say they want to become an “academic clinical research center”. In 2017, Thomas Jefferson University received a donation of $3 million from Australian philanthropists Barry and Joy Lambert. The University used this donation to found the Lambert Center for the Study of Medical Cannabis and Hemp.

“This could really put Pennsylvania into the forefront of this whole controversial and challenging area,” Dr. Charles Pollack, director of the Lambert Center, told NBC10 after the university received the donation.

There are several other schools that are eager to run clinical tests on cannabis, including the University of Pittsburgh.

“We believe that the research will be of great importance in determining the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases,” the University of Pittsburgh said in a statement.

Even though the Keystone State’s medical cannabis program is relatively restricted in comparison to that of other states, it is the only one that has introduced research elements. Ohio and Florida have both discussed research components in their programs, but there has not been any laws on the books as of yet.

Read the full article HERE.

Philadelphia mall fight could affect state marijuana laws

A fight over a Philadelphia mall’s deed restrictions belongs in federal court because it could end up affecting the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

PharmaCann Penn LLC is challenging a deed restriction that prevents it from using the mall space it bought for any “activity or use which is unlawful.” The company has a state license and city zoning approval to operate a dispensary.

Simon Property Group Inc., the mall owner, contends the deed restriction prevents PharmaCann from opening the dispensary because dispensing marijuana is a federal crime.


Read the full article HERE


City Council to Explore Medical Marijuana Workplace Guidelines


“Health issues ought not to be criminalized,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said on Wednesday.

While it’s true that medical marijuana is now legal in the state of Pennsylvania for treatment of certain conditions, cannabis remains outlawed at the federal level. This means that you could be hired one day and fired the next for taking your state-approved medication at night after work.

Given the disparity in medical marijuana laws at the federal, state, and local levels, City Council members are looking to better protect patients in Philadelphia by drafting clear workplace guidelines for use of what is still considered an illegal Schedule I drug by the federal government.

“Health issues ought not to be criminalized,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said at Wednesday’s Labor and Civil Service Committee meeting. Gym believes the priority should be helping patients “become their most full self” by allowing them to work no matter their particular medical situation.

Complicating things even further is the broad state law that allows employers to pick and choose which positions are deemed “safety sensitive” and thus cannot be filled by users of medical marijuana. “Employers may prohibit patients who are employees from performing any task which the employer deems life-threatening to the employee or other employees while under the influence of marijuana,” the law states.

Rather than continue this debate between federal and state law, the Labor and Civil Service Committee has recommended the drafting of specific workplace parameters to serve the city’s needs, even if they aren’t legally binding.

“We are just talking about some sort of guide that we can actively publicize, like a public service announcement or advisory for workers in the city of Philadelphia,” Councilwoman Cherelle Parker said.

Read the full article HERE

Philadelphia District Attorney Says His Office Will Not Prosecute Minor Cannabis Crimes

by Zach Harris

The City of Brotherly Love’s new top prosecutor has made concrete steps towards local cannabis reform while also waging war on pharmaceutical companies for influencing the opioid epidemic.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will enact a new form of localized cannabis reform under District Attorney Larry Krasner, dropping any minor cannabis charges turned over from local police.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Krasner, a social justice-focused Democrat elected to the DA’s office in late 2017, announced last week that his office had dismissed over 50 existing cannabis possession charges and would do the same for any future small-time weed cases.

Cannabis has been decriminalized in the city of Philadelphia since 2014, and Pennsylvania’s newly-legal medical cannabis sales began this week, but the City of Brotherly Love is still home to prohibitionist cops and the same racist policing tactics as many American police forces. As a result, minor pot arrests have persisted, with about 10% of all possession incidents still ending in handcuffs.

“What we’re talking about is the 10 percent or so that are charged, as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court,” Krasner told reporters from local public radio station WHYY. “We are going to tell them to drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession — not selling, not possession with the intent to deliver.”

Krasner, who took office just last month, is explicitly seeking to imprison fewer Philadelphians than his predecessors while also going after the city’s real criminals. Keeping true to his campaign promises, Krasner has already announced a lawsuit against 10 pharmaceutical companies that he says were most responsible for creating the opioid epidemic across the country and in Philadelphia, specifically.

“The city of Philadelphia has been hurt more than any other city in the nation by the scourge of opioids,” Krasner said. “The time for us to act was yesterday, and it is now.”

“Make no mistake, it isn’t just going to be the kids on the corner,” Krasner continued. “It’s going to be Big Pharma, it’s going to be doctors, it’s going to be pain centers, it’s going to be pharmacies, and to the extent we have an opportunity, it’s going to be distributors who think that money is more important than lives.”

Millennials bear the brunt of Pa. marijuana arrests



Philadelphia is evolving into a safe haven for cannabis consumers even as arrests increase across Pennsylvania. Newly-elected District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Thursday that he would drop any marijuana possession cases brought to the court by police.

A 2014 decriminalization ordinance allowing tickets caused common weed arrests to decline by more than 85 percent.  Still, I reported last year that hundreds of racially disparate cases were still being brought to Philly courts each year for less than 30 grams of buds.

Krasner isn’t the only DA to make such a move: Brooklyn’s Kenneth Thompson dismissed thousands of possession cases, and Kim Ogg in Houston, TX recently stopped charging weed possession as a crime.

Outside of Philly, the police and prosecutors of Pennsylvania are turning a little bit of green into a lifetime of problems for a big group of young adults. There were 27,133 arrests for cannabis last year, and fewer than 20 percent were for the more serious charges of growing and selling.

The Commonwealth saw 20,392 adults and 2,269 juveniles charged during 2017 for low-level marijuana possession, according to the Pa. Uniform Crime Reporting System (UCRS).

That means police were arresting 55 adults every day, simply for the act of having cannabis in the Keystone State. The number nearly equals all other drug possession arrests, combined.

The cost? A RAND Corporation study commissioned by Vermont put the cost of one weed arrest at $1,266. In Philadelphia, each misdemeanor case was estimated to cost $1,000 to process.

That means about $46 million taxpayer dollars were spent just last year to prosecute average consumers for having less than an ounce of cannabis.

People under age 30 comprised a huge portion – 71 percent – of all Pa.’s low-level marijuana arrests.  Millennials alone – those between the ages of 21 and 29 – made up nearly half (43 percent) of those caught. Our young adults who should be getting their lives, degrees and careers underway bear the brunt of this harsh policy.

Each number in the total is a person; someone whose entire life was upended.

Fines and probation are almost always assigned. Judges often use Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for first time charges, but the out-of-pocket expense to an offender is often more than $2,000. Factor in hiring a lawyer, possibly losing a driver’s license or even a job, and that marijuana arrest can turn into a financial tragedy.

Once in the system, cannabis abstinence is enforced through urine tests. Failing for THC while on probation can force the offender into mandatory drug treatment or even jail. During 2016 there were 3,507 free treatment admissions in Philadelphia paid for by Single County Authority funding. And 640 – about 20 percent – were administered for “marijuana.” These resources are desperately needed for the opiate crisis.

Males were also more commonly caught: Women were 9 times less likely to get arrested for marijuana. Parents can often face custody or family court issues over a few grams of cannabis.

After all the court requirements are satisfied, each offender is saddled with a permanent record that can lead to a lifetime of job discrimination.

The arrests are in stark contrast to Gov. Tom Wolf heralding a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries that are opening across the state. It also goes against much of the bipartisan sentiment to clear criminal records.

Erie recently joined York, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, State College and other cities by enacting a local ordinance to downgrade these charges to a summary, but still count them as a crime. Only Philadelphia’s 2014 decriminalization ordinance punishes possession with a civil fine, keeping offenders out of the courts and never starting a record.

 Read the full article  HERE.

Pennsylvania’s First Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Open This Week

Here’s when (and where) you’ll be able to buy medicinal weed near Philly.


The wait for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania will (at long last) come to an end this week.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are preparing to open throughout the next few days — and the first ever medicinal cannabis sale is planned for 9 a.m. on Thursday at Cresco Yeltrah in Butler, located about an hour north of Pittsburgh.
Near Philly, patients registered for the medical marijuana program will be able to purchase their first dose of medicinal cannabis on Saturday from either Keystone Shops in Devon or Terra Vida Holistic Center in Sellersville.

In total, six dispensaries will open their doors this week. Keystone Canna Remedies in Bethlehem, Solevo in Pittsburgh, and Organic Remedies in Enola (west of Harrisburg) will begin business on Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who signed the state’s medical marijuana program into law in April 2016, celebrated the milestone in a statement on Tuesday.

“Pennsylvanians have been waiting years for this moment,” Wolf said. “Medical marijuana is legal, safe, and now available to Pennsylvanians suffering from 17 serious medical conditions. In less than two years, we have developed a regulatory infrastructure, approved physicians as practitioners, certified patients to participate and launched a new industry to help thousands find relief from their debilitating symptoms.”

Philadelphia Rep. Jordan Harris to Introduce Bill to Automatically Expunge Cannabis Convictions for Medical Marijuana Patients in Pennsylvania

“It will be for anyone with a medical marijuana recommendation,” State Rep. Jordan Harris told NBC10.

As Pennsylvania inches closer to rolling out its medical marijuana program, a Philadelphia Democrat is introducing a bill to automatically expunge pot convictions for patients with legal cannabis recommendations.

“It will be for anyone with a medical marijuana recommendation,” State Rep. Jordan Harris told NBC10. “Should they have a possession conviction, they will have the opportunity vacate that conviction.”

Under Harris’ proposal, the expungement process would be automatic. He is currently looking for cosponsors.

“It’s the fact that the past can continue to harm [patients],” he said. “There are a lot of people with convictions. We have to be sure that our laws are not contradictory.”

2017 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania found that black communities in Pennsylvania were disproportionately impacted by the war on weed.

In Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties, black adults are nearly seven times more likely than white adults to be arrested for pot, according to the report. In Delaware County, the rate drops down to nearly five times more likely. And in Berks County, it’s around four times more likely.

Harris’ bill would allow patients to avoid legal fees and judges to avoid backlogs in court.

Read the full article HERE