7 Things To Know About The Medical Marijuana Program In Pennsylvania

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Doctor writing on prescription blank and bottle with medical cannabis on table close up

Like other territories in the United States, Pennsylvania has allowed medical marijuana use to patients who have moderate to severe medical conditions. It’s also one of the 36 states with its medical marijuana programs.   

Following the enactment of the state’s compassionate medical cannabis law in 2016, Pennsylvania established its Medical Marijuana Assistance Program (MMAP) to assist qualified patients and caregivers. This year, Pennsylvania decided to expand its medical marijuana program to provide additional support to patients and caregivers.  

If you’re from the area, find out how the program works and how you may avail of the program.  

  1. What Is The Medical Marijuana Assistance Program (MMAP)?         

The state legalized medical marijuana use in April 2016, and months later, created the Medical Marijuana Program Fund to finance the recently-approved legislation. With the creation of the Fund, the Office of Medical Marijuana was also formed and mandated to perform the following core tasks: 

  • Establish a program to support the medical needs of cash-strapped patients  
  • Assist patients and caregivers in paying for their identification cards 
  • Subsidize expenses for caregiver background checks 

All holders of active marijuana cards Pennsylvania, especially those who’ve shown financial hardships, are qualified to avail of this program.  

  1. Which Types Of Assistance May Be Availed Of By Residents?  

The state government plans to implement the expanded rules to its medical marijuana program within the first quarter of 2022, as will be discussed later. In the meantime, patients and caregivers registered under the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program (MMAP) are eligible for a 50% discount on their annual medical marijuana identification card. Caregivers are also allowed up to a 65% discount on Federal background check fees. These benefits will be expanded and improved through the new law approved this year.   

  1. How To Avail Of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program  

Inclusion in the program requires a patient to perform the following steps:  

  • Search for the site and register: Create an account on the state’s official medical marijuana registry site. You’ll be asked for your details, including your Pennsylvania driver’s license information. Answer truthfully as you’ll be evaluated for program eligibility based on your profile.      

            Take note that the card expires every year. If you’ve already registered, you have to take  heed of the expiry date. As much as possible, remember your card’s expiry date and  renew it at least one month before the date. You find out how to renew your registration  in the next section.    

  • Get a physician’s certification: Have a Department of Health-registered physician certify that you’re suffering from a medical condition. The new and updated law has added a few qualifying conditions and has lifted some restrictions on the definition of the term chronic pain. Check with your physician for more information.    
  • Pay for the medical marijuana I.D. card: A medical marijuana I.D. costs USD$50. Patients who show financial hardship—or those included in other health assistance programs like Medicaid, may be eligible for a discount.    
  • Get medical marijuana products from an accredited dispensary:  You may now purchase medical marijuana from an authorized dispensary after receiving your I.D. Medical cannabis in various forms is allowed in Pennsylvania. While edibles aren’t allowed, oils, pills, and tinctures may be mixed into food and beverages and ingested by a patient. Smoking marijuana isn’t allowed in this state.  
  1. How To Renew Your Medical Marijuana Program Registration  

A registered user will receive a notification anywhere from 30 to 60 days before the annual payment due date. You can renew your card online by updating your profile details and paying for the yearly dues. Failure to pay deactivates the card immediately. 

After completing the payment process, your I.D card will be renewed, but you have to get a new certification from your doctor—who may or may not be the same physician who issued the previous document. After this, the government will send a new card to your registered postal address. 

  1. What Is The Updated Medical Marijuana Law?   

By signing the P.L. 210 or House Bill 1024 in June 2021, the state upgraded its medical marijuana law to provide more services and assistance to patients and caregivers. Apart from expanding assistance provided to qualified individuals, the updated Pennsylvania law aims to balance patient safety with product quality in the state. It also ensures patients with ease of access to medical marijuana. The updated law also lifted a few restrictions on specific medical conditions while increasing each patient’s medical cannabis purchase volumes.   

  1. How Do These Amendments Impact The Program?  

Because the law covers all aspects of the program, patients, caregivers, and even dispensary owners stand to benefit from the upgraded law, which carries the following improvements:  

  • Patients can purchase up to a 90-day supply instead of the previous one-month limitation.  
  • Less restrictive qualification of the term “chronic pain” and additional qualifying conditions such as nerve tissue damage and cancer remission therapy patients 
  • The term caregiver has also been expanded, and the number of patients they can assist, formerly limited to five, has been eliminated. 
  • Previously convicted persons can now be employed by dispensaries or own one, provided that the conviction occurred more than 10 years before their engagement.   
  • Curbside deliveries are now allowed for medical cannabis or specific cannabidiol or CBD products.   
  • Dispensaries may now hire physicians who can provide their services virtually rather than requiring physical presence in the shop. 
  1. How Will The MMAP Expansion Work?  

The updated medical marijuana assistance program expansion aims to provide additional support to patients and caregivers. The updated program now seeks to waive all these costs from subsidizing medical marijuana card application fees and caregiver background check expenses. Then new law also provides additional funds for medical marijuana costs of eligible patients.   

Pennsylvania plans to implement the expanded program in three phases. The first phase is targeted for implementation in the first quarter of 2022 and involves lifting annual I.D. card fees for eligible patients. Phase 2 involves fully discounted background fees for caregivers, and the third phase, which allocates specific amounts to cash-strapped patients needing medical marijuana, is yet to be finalized.      

The Bottom Line  

Pennsylvania has one of the most supportive states regarding medical marijuana use. With the signing of the updated law this year, the government hopes to expand on its program to remove specific restrictions that limit patients, caregivers, and dispensary owners.  

By expanding the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program, Pennsylvanians suffering from severe health conditions expect improved access and substantial financial support from the state in the coming months.