Pennsylvania Cannabis Industry Must Catch Up to Neighbors

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With 2018 winding down, an already big year for legal cannabis pushes on.

On November 20th, customers entered Massachusetts recreational marijuana dispensaries and purchased cannabis for the first time without a prescription on the east coast. By the same token,  Michigan residents will make the midwest’s first legal pot sales by Thursday, December 6th.

But the new legal states won’t stop there. New Jersey senate and assembly panels passed three cannabis bills on November 26th, positioning the garden state to become the 11th with recreational marijuana by the new year.

Here in Pennsylvania, we saw the first medical marijuana sales take place in February, almost two years after governor Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana program into law.

While medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization took a big step forward in the commonwealth this year, Pennsylvania may be falling behind in terms of recreational marijuana, which in turn will hurt PA’s cannabis industry overall.

    The Pennsylvania cannabis industry must look to emulate neighbors in New Jersey, Michigan, and other legal states

Almost a year ago, the Philadelphia inquirer conducted a Q & A session with Duane Morris LLP lawyers Seth A. Goldberg and Paul P Josephson, based in Philly and New Jersey respectively, who handle marijuana clients in each state.

The piece began with a chilling sentence, “New Jersey is almost certain to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use within a year, and that’s sure to have major repercussions on Pennsylvania’s nascent medical cannabis industry.” A year has passed, and New Jersey legislators have cleared special panel hurdles, and hope to have a bill for governor Phil Murphy to sign soon.

The interview concerned the impact legal marijuana in New Jersey will have on Pennsylvania’s medical program, most notably PA’s possible loss of revenue, customers, and even investors because, “The assumption seems to be that Pennsylvania is not likely to become a recreational-use state any time soon.”

The legal marijuana marketplace in New Jersey is estimated at about 1 billion per year, which would create 300 million dollars in state tax revenue. Josephson described that, “New Jersey is projecting 10 percent of revenues might come from Pennsylvanians.”

    Because of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana program restrictions, many may look to new legal marijuana states and states with better medical programs

Like it or not, neighboring states with medical and recreational programs may offer more for cannabis patients and enthusiasts alike than what PA’s restrictive medical program can.

In his interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, lawyer Seth Goldberg mentioned that, “Given that there appears to be only one dispensary that will open in Philadelphia, it seems reasonable to expect people will consider going to South Jersey and Delaware for recreational cannabis.”

This highlights one of the biggest problems with PA’s initial medical marijuana program, and one that continues to persist, accessibility and availability. Many rural Pennsylvanians face long journeys to the nearest dispensary only to find lack of product selection, high prices, and purchase size limits.

While product availability increased when PA’s advisory board approved dry flower for vaping, the stock of medical cannabis and amount of dispensaries do not compare to more established medical programs in outside states.  

Moreover, legalization developments in Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Jersey may lead many Pennsylvanians out of state, and cause Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensaries, particularly close to New Jersey, to take a hit.

If Pennsylvania’s cannabis industry wishes to survive and thrive, it must follow the lead of New Jersey, and work with legislators to legalize cannabis for adult use.

About the Author

Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time. Linkedin, Twitter

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