Soulful Cannabis attended the August 14, Quarterly 2019 Medical Marijuana Adivsory Board meeting, chaired by Dr. Rachel Levine, PA’s Secretary of Health. Skip Shuda, co-founder of Soulful Cannabis, made the trek out to listen in on the quarterly meeting and join select Department of Health (DOH) team members for a patient focus group following the meeting.
During that meeting, John Collins, Director of PA’s Office of Medical Marijuana, provided an update on the Pennsylvania Program. The numbers are impressive, indicating a healthy start to the program:
The first sale took place on Feb. 15, 2018. All of the statistics below are since the program began 18 months ago.
PA Patient Statistics:
- 200,000 registered
- 180,000 certified
- 121,000 actively visiting dispensaries
- 50.5% of patients are in the program are certified due to chronic pain
- Roughly 3,000 patients have been newly added due to the anxiety condition being recently added to the program. Approximately 1,000 new patients are being added weekly, with a growth rate similar to that of chronic pain (an original condition in the program).
PA Caregiver Statistics:
- 20,000 registered caregivers
- PA Dispensary Statistics:
- 60 (of 150 potential) are operational as of August 13, 2109
- 1.6 Million Patient Visits to Dispensaries to date
- 4.4 Million products have been sold (averaging out to 2.75 products per patient visit)
- $200 Million in sales have been made by dispensaries to patients
PA Grower-Processor Statistics:
- 18 of 25 Grower-Processors are now operational
- 10 are shipping product
- 1 has had its licensed revoked
- $150 Million in sales (but sales are growing faster than dispensaries)
Reflections on the PA MMJ Program
With $350 Million in sales over 18 months, the PA Program is running at an annualized run-rate of nearly $235 Million in annual sales. Covering 23 medical conditions and with a strong medical presence in each dispensary, the PA medical marijuana program is emerging as a sizable and growing economic market.
It was heartening to hear the new board member Ray Tonkin from the PA District Attorney Association, ask about training for law enforcement. This is clearly an area of need. We learned that training for law enforcement is being performed by TeamDUI.org – a non-profit professional organization that specializes in safety training.
A surprising interpretation of the regulations was discussed near the near the end of the meeting. Members of the Department of Health, the legislature or law enforcement cannot tour an active dispensary. Entry for these people is prohibited (as it is with everyone else who is not a licensed worker, patient or caregiver) except in cases of DOH inspections or responding to a law enforcement incident.
The opportunity for learning is greatly diminished if we can’t have these important stakeholders tour and participate in discussions about operations with program business operators. I’m not sure if this can be resolved through regulatory modifications or a change in the statute, but it seems like an oversight in any case.
A Special Honor
After the formal board meeting, I was honored to join the Pennsylvania Patient Advocate/Liason, Lolly Bentch, and Director John Collins along with a small group of patients to participate in a focus group. The Department is actively seeking feedback on how well the program is working in the trenches for actual patients. The conversation included a rich exchange of perspectives. I found it rewarding to see the state taking such a pro-active role in improving the program for patients.