MMJ Program

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Week in Review: Pennsylvania flower sales, Oregon’s cannabis surplus & MassRoots’ big losses

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis dispensaries get the OK to sell flower for vaping, Oregon’s marijuana glut is hurting the state’s smaller growers, and MassRoots reveals that its losses widened to $44 million in 2017.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Positive in Pennsylvania

The announcement that Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensaries can sell dry leaf and flower for vaping is good news for the industry’s bottom line, according to a Keystone State MMJ business owner who is trying to build her company.

Corinne Ogrodnik, the CEO and co-founder of Pittsburgh-based Maitri Medicinals, said the allowance of flower will bring more patients into the program and help grow a market that could become one of the nation’s largest.

“It will be a more affordable product because we won’t have to be utilizing the equipment to process the flower and leaf into concentrates,” she said. “It will also require less intensive packaging.”

Ogrodnik also is hopeful that being able to offer flower will help her business get off the ground.

The restraints on Pennsylvania’s MMJ business owners make it a capital-intensive process, including costs for:

  • Renovating properties
  • Security
  • Medical staff

“We were looking at a few years of lean times,” Ogrodnik said, “and (flower) is really going to enable us to fully implement our business plan with the anticipation of how the market is going to expand.”

Other medical marijuana markets that allow flower for vaping require the dry plant material to be offered in a prepackaged vaping device.

Ogrodnik said it’s unclear how Pennsylvania will regulate the sale and consumption of dry leaf and flower.

She hopes dispensaries will be able to sell whole flower, rather than prepackaged or preground plant matter, and patients are allowed to decide how they will vaporize it.

No matter how it plays out, Ogrodnik believes the program is moving in the right direction.

“It demonstrates that the Department of Health supports this program working, which then translates to the viability of our business,” she added.

 

Read the full article HERE.

Legal marijuana could soon be a bigger market than soda

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  • Legal marijuana is set to hit $75 billion in sales by 2030, according to a note from analysts at the investment bank Cowen.
  • Weed is already putting pressure on alcohol sales. In states that have legalized marijuana, binge drinking rates are declining.
  • The market for marijuana could eventually eclipse soda sales.

Cannabis could soon become a bigger industry than soda, and it has already started putting pressure on alcohol sales.

If marijuana is made legal nationwide in the US by 2030, the legal weed industry could generate $75 billion in sales by that year, according to a new note from the investment bank Cowen.

Cowen’s cannabis sector analyst, Vivien Azer, revised her previous estimate up by $25 billion. Legal marijuana sales are already around $50 billion, Azer said in the note.

Soda consumption, on the other hand, is declining. Per capita consumption fell to a 31-year low in the US in 2016, Bloomberg reports, with $76.4 billion in sales in 2017.

Legal marijuana is already starting to impact alcohol sales as well.

In states that have legalized cannabis, binge-drinking rates have fallen 9% below the national average, and 11% below states that don’t allow the sale of recreational marijuana, according to the note. Adults in states with legal cannabis binge drink an average of 13% fewer times per month than those in states without legal recreational marijuana.

“This work builds on our prior assertions that cannabis acts as a substitute social lubricant for consumers,” Azer said in the note.

“As cannabis access expands, we expect further pressure on alcohol sales, given this notable divide in consumer consumption pattern,” she added.

The cannabis market is still far behind alcohol, however. Sales of alcohol hit $210 billion in 2017, according to the note.

 

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 Triblive.com.

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.

How Jefferson Health birthed the nation’s first major marijuana research program

by Sam Wood

The medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania is about to enter unprecedented territory as it embarks on the nation’s first state-sanctioned research program.

 Medical schools will partner with marijuana companies. The med schools will design research studies. The companies, which will grow cannabis and sell it at their dispensaries, will enlist patients for the studies. The companies will collect patient data to be analyzed by the medical schools.

Unlike traditional drug studies, which provide experimental medicines at no cost, patients will buy the drug under investigation.

 “It’s not a normal pharmaceutical research structure by any means,” said Eric Hagarty, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Wolf. “The conflict with federal law is primarily the reason for that.”

The federal government considers all forms of marijuana to be illegal.

Backers say the program’s research arm is unique in the U.S. and could make the state a global hub for cannabis science. Philadelphia may host up to five academic centers investigating applications for the drug.

Enabling this to happen is a provision of the marijuana law many call the “Jefferson Amendment.”

Nicknamed after Philadelphia’s Jefferson Health system, which was instrumental in the law’s creation, the Jefferson Amendment is officially known as Chapter 20 of the state’s medical marijuana act. It allows as many as eight health systems to each pair with a private company. A health system, under the law, is defined as a medical school with an acute-care hospital.

 In language only a bureaucrat could love, the law calls the medical schools “Academic Clinical Research Centers” (ACRCs) and deems the marijuana companies “Clinical Registrants” (CRs).

“The whole goal is to bring research and sophistication to cannabis that doesn’t exist in the rest of the state or the country,” said James Connolly, a former vice president at drug maker Wyeth. Connolly will head Solterra Care, LLC, the CR affiliated with Jefferson. “It will put us on the map if Philadelphia has three, four or five research centers and brings some credibility to the industry.”

Drexel, Temple, and the University of Pennsylvania are each expected to participate as research centers. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine is also angling to get in, though the school lacks a hospital on campus.

The state Department of Health will begin accepting applications on April 5.

 

 

Read the full article HERE

Hill doctor opens medicinal marijuana prescription practice

by Elizabeth Coady

Tucked in the rear first floor of 7811 Germantown Ave. is Dr. Rebecca Maury’s newly founded medical marijuana practice, Herbal Wellness Rx.

Maury, a Chestnut Hill resident who is board-certified in internal medicine and hospice and palliative care, this week quietly begins treating patients seeking to alleviate suffering from 17 serious medical conditions for which the state of Pennsylvania allows medicinal marijuana to be used.

Maury is among 433 physicians who have completed four hours of state-mandated training and are certified to treat patients seeking medical marijuana. Pennsylvania is one of 30 states that have legalized the use of the medicinal plant, still classified as an illegal drug by federal authorities, according to Governing.com. The Keystone state’s Medical Marijuana Program was approved by legislators in April 2016 and went live Feb. 15 when the first dispensaries opened.

“It’s still something that’s coming out of the shadows,” Maury said. “But it’s something I believe in. I feel happy to be part of the movement to get it out in the mainstream.”

The Washington, D.C., native has been ahead of the curve on using herbs to heal for decades. Even before enrolling in medical school, she attended the New Mexico School for Natural Therapeutics, a massage therapy and holistic wellness program, and the Southwest School for Botanical Medicine, where she studied the healing benefits of herbs.

According to her biography at HerbalWellnessRX.com, Maury then “spent several years traveling through the Southwest, wildcrafting herbs and studying their properties.”

She subsequently graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s in biology and then attended the university’s medical school. She found her way to Philadelphia via her internist’s residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

At Jefferson, she gravitated toward hospice and palliative care and discovered her ease in comforting patients with life-threatening and end-of-life illnesses.

“I was always interested in the healing arts,” Maury said, recalling how she would take care of baby squirrels that fell out of trees. “I sort of always have wanted to take care of beings. That’s just part of my nature.”

That innate caring proved a gift when dealing with the sick and dying, which she says “has the potential to be a beautiful, natural transformation.”

Treating patients with medical marijuana is a natural evolution in her caring for the sick. As she witnessed Pennsylvania’s slow roll toward legalization over the last several years, she thought to herself, “Gosh, this is something I should be making available to people. It’s a natural remedy. It has a very low if any possibility for complications for addiction.”

She points out the plant was used for centuries as a medicinal herb before being stigmatized in the early 20th century, in part by the medical industry. Even now the drug is viewed with disdain or stigma among some members of society.

But increasingly, the evidence for the health benefits of marijuana is winning out over old biases. Today, marijuana is used to ameliorate glaucoma and epilepsy, alleviate nausea and boost appetite in cancer and AIDS patients, ease post-traumatic stress disorder, lessen neuropathy from chemotherapy’s side effects, aide in sleep disorders and improve spasticity in Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis sufferers, to name a few ways it’s currently used.

Cannabinoids, a chemical component of pot, also has an “amazing anti-inflammatory component,” Maury said.

Under the new state laws, physicians who treat patients will review their medical histories and issue a letter certifying they are eligible to use medical marijuana. The patient, who must already be enrolled and issued an ID to participate in the state’s program, then takes the physician’s letter to the dispensary where they consult with a pharmacist or nurse practitioner on the optimal form, strain and TCH concentration of their marijuana treatment. Patients must pay out-of-pocket for their treatments.

Pennsylvania’s law allows for medical marijuana to be sold in liquid, pill, tincture, oil, and topical forms but forbids the sale of leaf, although members of the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board are currently considering including the sale of dried leaves to patients.

So far, 21,000 patients have registered to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program and 6,000 of those have been approved as eligible to participate by a physician, according to April Hutcheson, of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Pennsylvania has had the fastest rollout among state medical marijuana programs, according to Christine Visco, co-owner of TerraVida Holistic Center, one of the state’s 50 licensed dispensaries. Each licensed dispensary is allowed to operate in three locations in separate counties. TerraVida is licensed to operate dispensaries in Sellersville, Abington and Malvern.

 

Read the full article HERE

City Council to Explore Medical Marijuana Workplace Guidelines

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“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

City Council Committee Reveals Employment Risks For Medical Marijuana Users

By Pat Loeb

 

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania has made medical marijuana legal, but it can’t completely shield people who take it from consequences. A city council committee hearing last week highlighted potential problems for patients.

Pennsylvania law says a person can’t lose their job because they’re certified to use medical marijuana, but attorney George Voegele told the panel it also doesn’t require an employer to accommodate marijuana use.

“Zero tolerance policies are still okay,” Voegele said. “You can discipline or terminate an employee for failing a drug test and, of course, you can still discipline an employee who’s under the influence.”

Veogele says that may change if challenged in court, but some jobs, such as truck drivers, regulated by federal law, would still not be protected and the state sets aside a number of jobs users can’t do.

“No one wants someone using medical marijuana driving their children’s school bus,” he said, “or up in a cherry picker working on power lines.”

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker was distressed to learn of the employment risks.

“The notion that someone suffering from PTSD or cancer could lose their job because they are a medical marijuana patient was devastating,” Parker said.

She hopes for a public awareness campaign for employers and workers.

 

Read the full article HERE