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April 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health started implementing the state’s medical marijuana program. The program is the result of a legislation that allows medical marijuana patients to receive cannabis from dispensaries.

Pennsylvania law allows the Department of Health to issue a total of 25 combined grower/processor licenses statewide. The southeastern region of the state, which includes Philadelphia, Lancaster, and other cities is considered “region 1” and has been awarded a total of 10 dispensaries under state law. In the southeast region alone, 46 companies applied for just two grower/ processor licenses. Every applicant was required to pay a non-refundable $10,000 fee just to apply, in addition to another $200,000 that will only be returned to companies that aren’t awarded a license to operate. Each applicant was also required to provide proof of at least $2 million in capital.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health started the process of implementing the state’s medical marijuana program in April 2016 after the legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana bill, which allows for marijuana to be dispensed to individuals who have prescriptions and suffer from any of 17 pre-selected conditions. Though most were under the impression that Pennsylvania dispensaries can only sell cannabis oils and extracts, an exception in the way the law was written may allow for dispensaries to sell the plant itself.

There’s still a lot to do before the program gets off the ground, including licensing physicians to prescribe medical marijuana. Patient registration began in September 2017, and patients who have access to medical marijuana are expected to get their cards by November 2017. State officials say they’re optimistic the program will be fully operational by mid-2018. (As of 2020, the Pennsylvania cannabis program is fully functional).

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