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April 17, 2017

One year after becoming law, medical marijuana moving forward in Pennsylvania

Government Drugs
Carroll - NJ Marijuana Dispensary Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Packaged medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program hasn't been fully implemented yet, but state officials are making progress on giving patients access to it.

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf will attend a celebration to honor advocates who helped push lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the Keystone State. Last April 17, Pennsylvania became the 24th U.S. state to do so, but when will residents be able to receive treatment?

The state's Department of Health is overseeing the new industry's formation and officials currently expect the service to be up and running by 2018. Until then, the state has a safe harbor program to allow parents and legal guardians of children who need medical marijuana to obtain it out of state.

The program makes medical marijuana available to patients who have one of 17 serious medical conditions with a doctor's approval.

The latest step taken by state health officials was the unveiling of temporary regulations for physicians to participate in the program. The department is awaiting feedback from doctors about the proposed measures. Input will be accepted until April 20.

“The process for a patient to obtain medical marijuana will begin with the physician, so it’s vital to ensure that our regulatory process for those physicians is open and transparent,” Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy said.

The health department has already broken the state into six regions where up to 12 growers/processors will operate 27 dispensaries. Officials are also reviewing regulations for those facilities.

Applications have been collected for growers and dispensaries but have not been decided. In Philadelphia, three dispensary permits are expected to be approved.

Another step in the process to set up the industry will be awarding a contract for information technology solutions for tracking units of medical marijuana. The state is accepting bids now.

Wolf and other state lawmakers will attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at the Capitol.