Pennsylvania: More than a year after whole plant went legal, medical cannabis growers struggling to keep up with demand

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An eighth-ounce of bud costs $123,456 if you order online from medical cannabis dispensary Justice Grown Pennsylvania.

It’s a creative deterrent to stop patients from placing orders online amid widespread shortage of dry leaf medical cannabis.

Demand has outpaced supply ever since state regulators opened up raw cannabis sales for approved patients last August. That and other factors came to a head this week for Justice Grown when it had to throttle sales for an option that costs significantly less than concentrated products such as vape cartridges and tinctures.

Justice Grown owner Abbe Kruger, who has dispensaries in Dickson City and Edwardsville, said the listing was for information only and that online orders will not be processed.

Fluctuate daily

Kruger’s dispensaries have limited supply that can fluctuate daily. She’s preventing orders in excess of what they can fill when patients arrive to pick up.

On Tuesday, Justice Grown had only one dry leaf strain by one company on its online Edwardsville menu — a CBD hybrid called “The Wife” by grower/processor Terrapin.

That company had been at the front lines pushing regulators to allow more product to be allocated for bud.

“They’re starting to modify the program, starting to allow for more cultivation,” Terrapin spokesman Peter Marcus said. “My guess is within the next year you’re going to see it open up a lot more.”

At the end of September, the state health department walked back an order limiting dry leaf production to 50% of companies’ total output, department spokesman Nate Wardle said in an email.

“DOH (the health department) is doing a really good job in terms of increasing supply that hopefully will come into balance shortly,” said Jonathon Goldrath, co-founder of the White Haven grower/processor Standard Farms.

The health department recently streamlined its expansion, and Standard Farms is doubling its capacity, he said.

200,000 registered

An estimated 200,000-plus Pennsylvanians are registered in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. The number jumped after July when the health department added anxiety and Tourette syndrome to the list of diseases now treatable with cannabis.

But the DOH got hasty when it added those diseases, critics say, without ensuring producers were ready for the influx.

“Nobody gives anybody a prescription for opioids and sends them to a pharmacy knowing that the pharmacy isn’t going to have the prescription,” said Jeff Riedy, director with the cannabis advocacy organization Lehigh Valley NORML.

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