Making Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Cultivation More Accessible

There’s a push in Pennsylvania to enable more farmers in the state to get a slice of the medical cannabis cultivation pie.

Pennsylvania has been somewhat of a mover and shaker on the cannabis front, but in some aspects it’s still quite restrictive – particularly on medical cannabis cultivation.

There have been two phases for grower/processor applications since medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania in April 2016. In phase I, 12 permits were awarded, and in phase II, 13 permits. And at this point, that is all that will be awarded until such time the Pennsylvania Department of Health advertises another application phase. But that’s not likely to happen under current policy settings, as 25 permits is the maximum.

To get a grower/processor licence is also a pricey pursuit. It involves:

  • An initial non-refundable fee of $10,000.
  • A permit fee of $200,000, which is refundable if the permit is not granted.
  • Proof of $2 million in capital ($500,000 of which must be on deposit in a financial institution).

Given the red tape and bucks involved, provision of grower licences in the state have been skewed towards the bigger players. But Representatives Melissa L. Shusterman and Ismail Smith-Wade-El want to see this changed.

In a memorandum published earlier this week, the pair say it’s crucial Pennsylvanians have accessible and equitable entry into the burgeoning medical cannabis industry.

“Currently, however, prohibitions on acquiring new permits harm both entrepreneurs and consumers,” they state. “Farmers and small enterprises are denied the freedom to share in the nearly $2 billion that has been generated by the industry to date. The resulting unfair market conditions deny consumers more affordable options to a proven and recognized medication.”

The pair have plans to introduce a new permit for farmers and other small agricultural ventures to grow and sell medical cannabis to existing grower/processors; on a limited basis.

“Enabling small scale cultivation will allow our small farmers to be able to pull their crops together to share in a new license so that they can be part of this large economic gain for Pennsylvania,” they state. “Moreover, this legislation opens the door for growers new to the industry, women growers, and growers from marginalized communities to take part in this thriving enterprise.”

It’s not clear when they will table this proposed legislation. No doubt many smaller farmers in Pennsylvania will get behind it, but whether other lawmakers will remains to be seen.

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