Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act: A Money-Maker With Health Benefits

Following the lead of twenty-three other states, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolfe made history here on April 17 by signing The Medical Marijuana Act (SB3) into law. Two days later, he turned up in King of Prussia to tout the bi-partisan legislation before “jubilant” crowds, saying, “This is about helping peoples’ lives, about helping people that are going to be better, faster. They’re going to feel better and that is just such a rewarding thing.”

And he could just be right, as our law covers such conditions as:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

The law is set to go into effect next month, but it could take 18 to 24 months to establish all the regulations and get retailers up and running to sell us medical marijuana. The standards, though, are already set for tracking the plants, certifying physicians, and licensing growers, dispensaries, and physicians. Also decided: It will only be available in pill, oil, vapor, ointment, or liquid form. No smoking allowed, growing, either.

It’s all been a long time coming…

Our Jamestown settlers actually brought marijuana to our shores way back in 1611 when they established the first permanent English settlement here. By the 1890’s it was turning up in a variety of medications and was freely sold in pharmacies. Then in the 1920’s, Mexican immigrants introduced us to its recreational use, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to 2016, and:

  • Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states and D.C., with Pennsylvania the latest to sign on.
  • Legalization of medical marijuana is currently pending in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Marijuana is legal for adult and medical use in 4 states: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska-and D.C., too, but accompanied there by strict restrictions.

Meanwhile, it’s one helluva money-maker, so no wonder budget-strapped states can’t seem to resist the lure. The numbers speak for themselves. Back in 2014, adult use amounted to $373.8 million; add in the total for medical marijuana sales and the figure comes in at a whopping $4.6 billion!

Plus, by 2020, it’s projected that adult use sales will amount to $12.1 billion, while medical sales will top $10.7 billion, for a total of $22.8 billion. Talk about filling the coffers!

So now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn at the trough. Indeed, although our law is brand new, marijuana entrepreneurs are already lining up. Says Doug Porter of the Cannabis Career Institute, “This is a prime time to start a marijuana business.” Indeed, folks in the know actually expect some 245,000 patients to sign on right away and sales to quickly top $100 million.

Adds Michael Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp in Philadelphia: “Pennsylvania could be one of these robust states. There is a serious marketplace here.”

The only bumps in the road noted so far:

  1. Not enough prescribing docs, as they must first take an online certification course and then opt-in to the program.
  2. Along with the ban on smoking and growing, flowers and edibles are not allowed.

In time, restrictions may very well ease, however. After all, just take a look at what’s already happened in places like California. It all started there with legalizing the medicinal use of pot, and now celebrities are making names for themselves in the marijuana marketplace. For instance, while Snoop Dogg hawks his “DANK FROM THE DOGGFATHER HIMSELF,” Melissa Etheridge is offering up marijuana-infused wine-a double whammy if ever there were one.

At the same time, Willie Nelson has partnered with private equity investors to market his “Willie’s Reserve,” and, not to be left out of the boom, either, Whoopi Goldberg and partner Maya Elisabeth now offer women a balm, a tincture, a sipping chocolate, and a bath salt. Really.

All in favor raise your hands and say “Aye.”

One caveat, though: In 2014, the U.S. Addiction Rehab Industry brought in $35 billion a year with more than 14,000 centers nationwide treating some 2.5 million patients and counting…