Medical (2016)

Current Status

Under the new regulations, enacted as of April 17, 2016, Pennsylvania will be open for medical marijuana businesses. The program initially includes 17 qualifying conditions.

The regulations of this measure have provisions for:

    • Marijuana dispensaries
    • Marijuana cultivators
    • Marijuana product manufacturers

The state will be open for applications from February 20, 2017 until March 20, 2017.

During the first phase of the program, there will be up to 12 permits issued for grower/processors across Pennsylvania’s six medical marijuana regions, and up to 27 permits issued for dispensaries.

Also, there will be a capital requirement for each type of business.

    • An applicant for a grower/processor permit shall provide an affidavit that the applicant has at least $2 million in capital, $500,000 of which must be on deposit with one or more financial institutions.
    • An applicant for a dispensary permit shall provide an affidavit that the applicant has at least $150,000 on deposit with one or more financial institutions.
    • The department is allowed to issue permits initially for no more than 25 growers/processors. No more than five grower/processors may also be issued a dispensary permit.
    • The department will issue permits initially for no more than 50 dispensaries.

Medical Marijuana

Qualified Medical Conditions:
Patients can qualify for medical cannabis if they have a terminal illness or if they suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, autism, sickle cell anemia, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin, or if conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective.

A registered patient or caregiver is protected from arrest, prosecution, and discrimination in child custody cases. Employers do not have to accommodate employees’ on-site use. Legal protections do not take effect until the patient has been issued a medical cannabis registration card. The legislation does not include a timeline for issuance of registration cards.

The DOH is responsible for implementing the program, including developing rules, processing applications, and issuing patient ID cards and licenses. The law creates an advisory board established to make recommendations to DOH. The board will be comprised of 15 members, including three law enforcement members, several health or medical experts, and at least one patient advocate. Two years after the law takes effect (May 2018), the board will issue a report including recommendations regarding access to dry leaf or plant cannabis. DOH will then accept or reject its recommendations and will have 18 months to promulgate rules based on the board’s report.

Government medical assistance programs and private health insurers are not required to reimburse any costs involved with the use of medical cannabis or any costs associated with an employer having to make accommodations for the use of medical cannabis in the workplace.

SHL (Safe Harbor Letters) Expiration

The SHL will be valid from the date of issuance until May 17, 2018 or the publication of permanent regulations, whichever comes first, or

The minor turns 18, no longer has the condition, or moves to another state;
The minor changes physicians, upon which they must immediately notify the department and submit a new letter from the new physician;
The applicant can no longer fulfill their responsibilities; or
The minor or applicant die.
Ineligible Applicants

DOH may deny, revoke, or suspend a SHL if DOH has evidence of the following:

  • A conviction of a criminal offense that occurred within the five years relating to the sale or possession of drugs, narcotics, or controlled substances.
  • A history of drug abuse.
  • A history of diversion of a controlled substance or illegal drugs.
  • Falsified information on the application.
  • A conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, such that DOH would not be able to find the applicant of good moral character.
  • An intentional, knowing, or reckless violation of a provision of the act or this chapter.

An applicant whose letter is denied, suspended, or revoked may be prohibited from participating in the medical marijuana program for five years.

Cannabis Grow Limit:
Home cultivation is not permitted.

Cannabis Possession Limit:
The only types of medical cannabis allowed initially are pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization. Dispensaries cannot sell edibles, but medical cannabis products could be mixed into food or drinks to facilitate ingestion by a patient in a facility or residence. Vaporization is allowed, and smoking is prohibited. Following the issuance of the board’s report, DOH could promulgate a rule that would allow patient access to dry leaf cannabis. (All within a 30 day supply).


DOH will issue 25 combined grower and processor permits. They are required to use seed-to-sale tracking, thorough record keeping and retention, surveillance systems, and additional security measures.


DOH will issue 25 combined grower and processor permits. They are required to use seed-to-sale tracking, thorough record keeping and retention, surveillance systems, and additional security measures.



50 dispensaries. Each dispensary license may have three different locations, meaning there is a potential maximum of up to 150 dispensaries locations throughout state.
Dispensary applicants will pay $5,000 per dispensary application and $10,000 for grower/processor applications. Medical cannabis business licensees will pay registration fees of $30,000 for each dispensary location and $200,000 for grower/processors. The grower/processor will pay a 5% tax on the sale of medical cannabis to a dispensary. Patients are initially charged $50 for an identification card, which can be waived for financial hardship. All fees may be modified by the advisory board.

Pennsylvania State Quarter
Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana on Apr. 18, 2016

Important Cannabis Laws