More funding sought to subsidize Pennsylvania medical marijuana purchases

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The state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has published its yearly report on its medicinal marijuana program, asking for extra money to support patients who can not afford medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been authorized since 2016 in Pennsylvania. It is approved for citizens of the Commonwealth with a “serious medical condition” who obtain certification from a doctor registered with the program.

A Medical Marijuana Advisory Board regulates the program, and patients with one of 23 medical conditions qualify. Twenty-three licensed producers and processors are currently in business, says the report.

There are 161 operational medical marijuana dispensary locations in the Commonwealth. Since the launch of the campaign in January, a total of 61.6 million goods have been sold as of May.

The Department of Health has roughly 1,600 regulatory inspections of growers and dispensaries. A violation may result in “the suspension or revocation of the operating permit, civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation, an order of restitution of funds or property unlawfully obtained or retained, or the issuance of a cease-and-desist order of some or all operations,” according to the report.

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Since the program’s inception, the Commonwealth has authorized over 1,800 doctors to certify patients, and these doctors have certified nearly 1.1 million people. While the report doesn’t advocate any big changes, the most significant request is a call to make more funding available to help low-income patients with the costs of medical marijuana.

Obtaining marijuana can be difficult because it is federally illegal in Schedule I. It is important to note that health insurance plans do not cover the cost of medical marijuana. Still, the Department of Health offers an assistance program for those who “demonstrate a financial hardship” and need help paying for their medicine.

For the time being, the government is subsidizing the costs of identification cards and background checks using monies from the aid program. As mentioned in the paper, the next stage is “assisting patients with paying for their medical marijuana products at the point of sale.”

The MMAP is funded by a tax on cultivators and processors, although only 15% of this levy is allocated to direct financial aid. The remaining funds are allocated to drug abuse research, medicinal marijuana program administration, local law enforcement, and drug abuse prevention.

“The 15 percent that has been allocated for MMAP, unfortunately, will do little to subsidize the needs of our most vulnerable patients who demonstrate financial hardship,” the report concluded. The Department’s goal is to help as many patients as possible in a meaningful way.

Also Read: State lawmakers push federal marijuana reform

The Department has proposed a change in legislation to redirect 30% of the monies now allocated to research toward patient cost subsidies. Under the new proposal, MMAP would receive 45 percent of tax revenue instead of the existing 15 percent.

The research states that allocating 45% of the fund would be a “huge help” in meeting the needs of eligible patients.

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