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Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program.

“It means there’s going to be safe and effective access to a new medicine that can help (patients) in a wide variety of ways,” said Victor Guadagnino, the company’s co-founder and chief of business development. He said the company sees the drug as a way patients can take a more active role in their own health care.

 

Nine entities have been approved to grow and process medical marijuana, and their products are expected to be available to patients in the coming four months.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the approval is good news for patients and their caregivers.

“We are one step closer to providing medical marijuana to patients with serious medical conditions who desperately need this medication,” the Democratic governor said.

Guadagnino, who lives in New York City, said the dispensary in Bethlehem will open this month for educational workshops and registration assistance, but he does not expect to have the product available until mid-February.

The Bethlehem dispensary, which Guadagnino said is part of their multimillion-dollar medical marijuana investment in the region, will start with four or five employees and grow based on patient demand. The company also plans to eventually open two other dispensaries in the Lehigh Valley.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said officials expect more dispensaries to open in the coming weeks.

The announcement of the first dispensary came as the U.S. Justice Department said federal prosecutors are being given more latitude to pursue criminal charges involving marijuana. In response, Wolf vowed to do whatever he can “to protect Pennsylvania patients.”

A 2016 state law legalized medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions, including AIDS, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

 

Read the full article HERE.

Can medical marijuana users have firearms? Police say no

As Pennsylvania prepares to issue medical marijuana cards by year’s end, patients will find firearms out of their reach, state and federal law enforcement authorities say.

At issue is the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug— one with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the same as heroin and LSD and other hallucinogens, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes,” said Special Agent Joshua E. Jackson, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Washington, D.C.

Pennsylvania attorneys specializing in medical marijuana law told lehighvalleylive.com they were surprised firearms ownership is an issue at all with patients. Steve Schain, whose Hoban Law Group is “100 percent devoted to cannabis and hemp law,” said the program was created by state law, and there is no mention of firearms.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to bring it up,” said Andrew Sacks, managing partner at Sacks Weston Diamond LLC in Philadelphia.

The trouble is, it’s an automatic “no” when a legitimate medical marijuana user applies for a background check to purchase or transfer a firearm or ammunition, or to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm, according to the ATF and Pennsylvania State Police.

The federal background check form was amended in the past year to explicitly point out the no-exceptions federal prohibition, said Major Scott C. Price, state police director of the Bureau of Records and Identification.

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?” questions 11e reads on the ATF Form 4473. “Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

The ATF sent a letter saying as much to firearms sellers in 2011, Price noted. Answer “yes” on the form, and the retailer won’t even run the background check, which will look at the database of medical marijuana cardholders, he said.

“So, in fact, an individual who is issued a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania who is a user of medical marijuana, that individual would be prohibited from purchasing or technically possession of a firearm under federal law,” Price said Tuesday.

This firearms prohibition is gaining recognition in Pennsylvania as the state prepares to issue prescription cards. As of Nov. 16, more than 6,000 patients registered to receive cannabis for the treatment of symptoms of any of 17 approved conditions, according to the state Department of Health.

Holders of the $50 state medical marijuana ID card are expected to be able to purchase cannabis products from approved dispensaries beginning in 2018. The prohibition on purchasing firearms does not apply to medical marijuana caregivers, who can obtain cannabis products for up to five patients.

How legal marijuana in N.J. will disrupt Pa.’s medical program: A Q&A with Duane Morris lawyers

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer  @samwoodiii  samwood@phillynews.com

New Jersey is almost certain to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use within a year, and that’s sure to have major repercussions on Pennsylvania’s nascent medical cannabis industry.

 Gov.-elect Phil Murphy ran on a platform calling for full legalization of all forms of marijuana for anyone over 21. Industry analysts say the Garden State cannabis market could be worth $1 billion a year and generate an annual $300 million for the state’s tax coffers.

“It could be massive,” said Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, addressing the MJBizCon cannabis convention, which drew 18,000 people this month in Las Vegas.

 Bills are pending in both houses of the Legislature, and though a few lawmakers have expressed reservations, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D; Gloucester) also considers legalization “a priority.”

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, set to launch in the first quarter of 2018 and offering only oil-based products, may find itself outmaneuvered. Already, some entrepreneurs envision the equivalent of “Total Weed” shops just across the bridges. If Jersey marijuana is less expensive, legal for all adults, and sold in forms not available in Pennsylvania (buds and edibles, primarily), expected profits for the Keystone State’s growers and dispensers could take a serious hit, especially in the southeastern part of the state. That could prompt legislators in Harrisburg to consider full legalization sooner than later.

The Inquirer spoke with two Duane Morris LLP lawyers who represent marijuana clients on both sides of the river. Seth A. Goldberg, based in Philadelphia, heads the firm’s cannabis practice. Paul P. Josephson, based in Cherry Hill, served as counsel to Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and is an adviser to the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association. The questions and answers have been edited for concision.

How soon will we see New Jersey move to legalize cannabis for all adults?

Josephson:  It’s likely we’ll see legislative action by June. In the interim, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another call for license applications and the governor or Legislature looks to broaden the number of qualifying medical conditions.

What will it look like if New Jersey approves full recreational use?

Josephson: I would expect that Gov.-elect Murphy will appoint a commission or panel to provide guidance. The legislation that is out there right now doesn’t define the number of licenses. It creates a new Division of Marijuana Enforcement inside the Attorney General’s Office, similar to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The legislation leaves it to the director and AG to determine the number of licenses on a town-by-town basis.

Will towns be able to opt out and declare themselves “dry”?

Josephson: Yes. Currently, they would have one year to opt out of the system. Every five years they could reconsider whether they want to allow cannabis-related operations.

What will legalized recreational use in Jersey do to the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program?

Goldberg: It’s not unreasonable to imagine people going to New Jersey to buy cannabis and, as a result, the Pennsylvania program would not be as profitable as originally anticipated. The assumption seems to be that Pennsylvania is not likely to become a recreational-use state anytime soon. If and when New Jersey goes rec, the loss of revenue to New Jersey would seem to be a reason for the Pennsylvania legislature to consider going recreational.

Josephson: To the extent New Jersey is projecting that 10 percent of marijuana revenues might come from Pennsylvanians, I think it’s obvious the N.J. program could have a negative impact on Pennsylvania revenues.

Goldberg: Delaware is also considering going recreational. … Given that there appears to be only one dispensary that will open in Philadelphia, it seems reasonable to expect people will consider going to South Jersey and Delaware for recreational cannabis.

 

Read the full article HERE.

Medical Weed Dispensary Moving To Suburbs After Local Opposition

By Max Bennett, Patch Staff

When TerraVida was unable to establish a dispensary in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, it looked west to the suburbs for its new potential home.

CHESTNUT HILL-MT. AIRY, PHILADELPHIA – TerraVida Holistic Centers was eyeing locations in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods to set up a medical marijuana dispensary. When zoning issues, political opposition, and community push back forced TerraVida to look elsewhere in the area, Malvern was the focus of their search.

Philly.com reports the company is moving ahead with a dispensary in Malvern.

The location is at 249 Planebrook Road, Malvern.

TerraVida opted to ask the state’s permission to relocate to the Chester County suburb rather than fight the issues it faced in the Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Officials scrapped plans to set up in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy back in September.

The facility, along with TerraVida’s Abington and Sellersville locations, are set to open in 2018.

Could Medical Marijuana Prevent Seizures? Researchers at Penn Medicine Are Hoping to Find Out

The living brain cells of Harper Howard, a 5-year-old girl who died last year, are at the center of the research at Penn.

Penny Howard arrived in Philadelphia last month anxious to see her daughter, Harper, again. It had been more than one year since Penny’s little girl died from a rare disease called CDKL5 that marked her short life with violent seizures and developmental disorders.

Her daughter now lives on through groundbreaking research being done at Penn Medicine that could eventually help others with the disorder. Doctors and researchers there are trying to understand what caused her seizures and what could have been done to treat them. Among those possible remedies is cannabis. Howard believes Harper proved it before dying last year.

“Oh wow!” Howard said while gazing at a tiny sample of her daughter’s brain. It was dyed a bright pink and would soon be magnified under a microscope.

Taking a minute for herself, the Texas mom reflected on what it means to see her daughter in this way.

“We really walked a fine line of hope and hopelessness for a very long time. Because we realized that this was something bigger than what we were able to fix,” she said.

Harper Howard was just two weeks old when she had her first seizure. By 19 months, she was having as many as 40 per day.

She was eventually diagnosed with CDKL5, a little known genetic disorder. Harper couldn’t walk, talk or even make eye contact. She depended on her parents for everything.

“We really walked a fine line of hope and hopelessness for a very long time. Because we realized that this was something bigger than what we were able to fix,” she said.

Harper Howard was just two weeks old when she had her first seizure. By 19 months, she was having as many as 40 per day.

She was eventually diagnosed with CDKL5, a little known genetic disorder. Harper couldn’t walk, talk or even make eye contact. She depended on her parents for everything.

 

Read more HERE.

Firm hired to track Pa.’s medical-marijuana sales suffers another website crash

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer  @samwoodiii  samwood@phillynews.com

MJ Freeway, the company awarded a $10.4 million contract to track all of Pennsylvania’s medical-marijuana commerce, suffered major disruptions over the weekend, causing some businesses in cannabis-legal states to suspend work for hours.

 The state Department of Health contracted with MJ Freeway in April for software that will track all cannabis produced in the state from seed to sale. The software will also be used as the state’s registry for patients, caregivers, and practitioners who will participate in the program, which is expected to begin in early 2018.

The outages required retailers and dispensers to record all sales by hand. In an email received late Monday, a spokeswoman for Denver-based MJ Freeway said service had been restored.

“On Saturday afternoon and Monday afternoon, we observed performance issues with our legacy Tracker software product,” wrote Jeanette Ward. “All client sites were taken offline for a period of time on Saturday evening and Monday afternoon to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. On both days, service was restored within a few hours, and client sites are currently live.”

The affected software is not the same product that MJ Freeway sold to Pennsylvania, Ward said Tuesday.

The disruption — it was unclear if it was the result of a crash or a deliberate attack — was the latest of several setbacks for MJ Freeway, which has provided tracking software for several states and a point-of-sale system for about 1,000 marijuana retailers nationwide.

  • Last week, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced that MJ Freeway would fail to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to take over the state’s marijuana tracking software.
  • In September, Nevada abruptly canceled its agreement with MJ Freeway two years into a five-year contract.
  • The same month, an anonymous hacker circulated an offer to sell confidential information hacked from the Washington state and Nevada programs.
  • That followed a June incident in which the company’s source code was stolen and posted on Reddit (the code was later removed).
  •  In January, MJ Freeway was the target of a “malicious” hack that caused canna-businesses to lose data.

Pennsylvania’s contract with MJ Freeway was greeted with controversy when announced April 20. The company’s software ranked lower on technical merits than its Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based rival, BioTrackTHC, which earned a perfect score. MJ Freeway, however, undercuts the competition on price, according to a state scoring document.

 

Read more HERE.