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Pennsylvania Governor Signs Landmark Bill Allowing Direct Medical Marijuana Sales

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Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania has signed a groundbreaking bill allowing licensed medical marijuana grower-processors in the state to act as retailers, selling their cannabis products directly to patients. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard, received final approval from the Senate just two days before being signed into law on Thursday.

Under this new measure, the state Department of Health will establish a process enabling Pennsylvania's ten independent marijuana grower-processors to apply for dispensary permits, facilitating direct commerce with patients. Simultaneously, the state's four independent dispensaries can now obtain grower permits, allowing them to cultivate cannabis products in-house.

This legislation replaces the previous law, which restricted no more than five of the state's 25 grower-processor license holders from holding dispensary licenses. The remaining license holders were obligated to sell their products to licensed dispensaries, creating a near-monopoly that favored select out-of-state operators. Advocates of the new law see it as a remedy, allowing independent in-state growers to vertically integrate and fostering a more competitive market.

The reform is anticipated to generate nearly $2 million in revenue from application and permit fees, according to a fiscal note posted last month. For subsequent fiscal years, the state expects to generate approximately $90,000 annually, although some of this revenue will be offset by administrative costs incurred by the health department in processing applications and overseeing permits.

While some lawmakers had initially predicted more sweeping changes to the state's marijuana laws, such as home cultivation or adult-use legalization, these changes were not incorporated into the final legislation. However, one notable provision prohibits licensees from transferring permits for a specified period, preventing larger, often out-of-state companies from acquiring permits and dominating the market.

As Pennsylvania continues to hold off on adult-use legalization, there is a growing expectation that the state will eventually follow suit, especially as neighboring states embrace recreational sales. A recent informational hearing on marijuana legalization in the Pennsylvania House committee reflects the increasing momentum for reform. U.S. Sen. John Fetterman and Governor Shapiro have both signaled the need for Pennsylvania to catch up with neighboring states in marijuana policy.

In response to the changing landscape, two bipartisan lawmakers, Sens. Camera Bartolotta and Sharif Street, are seeking co-sponsors for a more modest change. Their proposal aims to decriminalize marijuana, downgrading simple possession from a misdemeanor crime to a civil offense. The lawmakers argue that while medical marijuana has proven beneficial, criminalizing recreational cannabis possession remains inappropriate.

Pennsylvania finds itself at a crossroads, balancing incremental reforms with the broader anticipation of potential adult-use legalization in the near future. Stay tuned for further developments as the state navigates the evolving cannabis landscape.

This story was first reported by Marijuana Moment.