What is Medical Marijuana?

Under Act 16 of 2016 (the Act or Medical Marijuana Program), the term “medical marijuana” refers to marijuana obtained for a certified medical use by a Pennsylvania resident with a serious medical condition and is limited by statute in Pennsylvania to the following forms:

  • pill;
  • oil;
  • topical forms, including gel, creams or ointments;
  • a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization, excluding dry leaf or plant form;
  • tincture; and
  • liquid.

Qualifying Conditions:

The statute defines a “serious medical condition” as any one of the following:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Intractable Seizures
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuropathies
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
  • Sickle Cell Anemia

When will the department begin issuing regulations to implement the Medical Marijuana Program?

Temporary guidelines for the Safe Harbor provision of Act 16 of 2016 have been published. The department is drafting the temporary regulations that are needed to implement the Act. Those temporary regulations will explain the program’s operation, including how applications are to be submitted by growers/processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers, and physicians, and will be in place for two years from the date they are published. During that time period, the department will be preparing to issue formal regulations. The department intends to publish the temporary regulations sequentially, addressing the requirements for growers/processors so that those entities can come online and begin to produce products, then detailing requirements for dispensaries and physicians, followed closely by requirements for the registration of caregivers and patients.

Who will be able to obtain medical marijuana?

Under the Medical Marijuana Program, patients who are residents of the commonwealth and have a serious medical condition as certified by a physician will be able to obtain medical marijuana at approved dispensaries that are located in the commonwealth and have a validly-issued permit from the department.

A “caregiver” who is designated by the patient and approved by the department will be able to obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary located in the commonwealth that has a validly-issued permit from the department in order for the caregiver to deliver medical marijuana to the patient.

Who is considered a “caregiver” under the Act?

The Act defines a “caregiver” as an individual, 21 years of age or older unless otherwise authorized by the department, who is designated by a patient or, if the patient is under 18 years of age, an individual that is a parent or legal guardian of the patient, or an individual designated by a parent or legal guardian, or an appropriate individual approved by the department upon a sufficient showing that no parent or legal guardian is appropriate or available. Caregivers must undergo a criminal history background check, submit an application to the department for an identification card, and be registered with the department. The department will make applications for caregivers available on its website.

How may patients participate in the Medical Marijuana Program?

In order to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program, patients must:

  1. Register with the department.
  2. Obtain a physician’s certification that they suffer from one of the 17 serious medical conditions, as defined in the Act.
  3. Apply for a medical marijuana ID card and submit the application fee.
  4. Obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary located in the commonwealth that has a valid permit issued by the department.


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