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A complete guide to Spotlight PA’s investigations of Pennsylvania’s flawed medical marijuana program


HARRISBURG - A series of investigative stories from Spotlight PA this year has uncovered serious flaws in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program and prompted calls for change from doctors, patients, industry leaders, and policymakers.

The coverage — based on months of reporting, dozens of interviews, and thousands of pages of public records — has revealed misleading or dangerous tactics by cannabis businesses, unequal advertising rules, legal gray areas for workers and employers, and inconsistent enforcement by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

Here’s a look at the reporting, its impact, and the issues we’re keeping an eye on:


There is a way to get a Marijuana related conviction cleared in PA


Conviction for using weed following you around? Check out pardon program.

Filling out an application online as part of a one-time expedited process through the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons takes a few minutes, but it can change a lifetime.

The pardon is for select minor, non-violent marijuana criminal convictions.

More than 1,600 people have already applied for a pardon through the PA Marijuana Pardon Project.

"This is an opportunity for individuals who are seeking to move forward with their lives to get a second chance," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a media release. "I encourage anyone who may be eligible to apply today."


Pa. Law protects Workers approved for Medical Marijuana — once they use it, it's a different story

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Vague legal safeguards for medical marijuana users in Pennsylvania are forcing patients to choose between their job and a drug they say has changed their life, and leaving skittish employers vulnerable to lawsuits, according to a three-month Spotlight PA investigation.

While state law protects workers from being fired or denied a job just for having a doctor’s permission to use marijuana, those protections become opaque when people actually take the drug — regardless of whether they do it in their personal time.

“It essentially makes no sense,” Pittsburgh attorney John McCreary Jr., who represents employers, told Spotlight PA.


Pennsylvania Marijuana pardon project


ALLENTOWN - State Reps. Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer will host a town hall with Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Secretary Celeste Trusty this Friday, Sept. 16 to discuss the new Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project.

The lawmakers said the event – which starts at 3 p.m. at Resurrected Life Community Church at 144 N. 9th St. – will provide residents and community members with a chance to learn about the pardon project and ask questions.

“The Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project offers people convicted of extremely low-profile marijuana offenses the opportunity to move on with their lives,” said Schlossberg, D-Lehigh. “I am thrilled to work with Representative Schweyer, Mayor Tuerk and Lt. Governor Fetterman’s staff to make this event possible.”   


Documentary film Crew visits Pennsylvania Hemp Farms

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AVONDALE - A band of Tennessee filmmakers passed through Pennsylvania this week, visiting hemp farms and interviewing farmers for a documentary film series about industrial hemp called “One Plant.”

“A lot of the people that we’re trying to talk to are right here in Pennsylvania,” said filmmaker Jordan Berger, co-owner of the film company Sunflower.

The first stop the crew made was at Cedar Meadow Farm in Holtwood, Lancaster County, where cover crop coach Steve Groff has been growing hemp since 2019.

“We talked a lot about regenerative agriculture...and how hemp works into all of that,” Berger said of his interview with Groff.


Hemp-based spirit The Pathfinder promises no booze and no bad vibes


Alexa M. stopped by Art in the Age in Old City last weekend to pick up a gift for a friend, and came across this non-alcoholic spirit distilled from fermented hemp.

The alchemy alone left my brain in a pretzel. Curiosity — coupled with the bottle's promise to destroy "bad vibes" and its ranking at the top of best zero-proof drink lists — left me thirsting for a taste.

Why it matters: For anyone looking for more non-alc options in the Philly metro, The Pathfinder might be for you.

Tastes like: Cola with bitter and floral notes, similar to an amaro. Ingredients include wormwood, angelic root, ginger, sage, juniper, saffron and orange peel.


Hemp Podcast Rooted in Ag Progress

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Four years ago, we started publishing weekly episodes of the Industrial Hemp Podcast. This was about 5 months before the Farm Bill was signed into law that made hemp a legal commodity crop.

But it was five years ago — at Ag Progress Days 2017 — that some very important seeds were planted in my mind.

2017 was the first year that Pennsylvania farmers could apply for a researcher permit to grow hemp. And Penn State was among the 14 research permit holders.

At Ag Progress Days that year, some folks from the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council gave a presentation in a sweltering pole barn.


Pennsylvania bill gives medical cannabis patients DUI protection


A Pennsylvania bill approved last week by a legislative committee would protect registered medical cannabis patients from prosecution under the state’s zero-tolerance policy for THC.

Pennsylvania medical cannabis patients would receive some protection from being convicted for driving under the influence if a bill making its way through the state legislature is passed and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. The measure, Senate Bill 167, was approved last week by the Senate Transportation Committee with a vote of 13-0.

If approved, the legislation sponsored by state Senator Camera Bartolotta would eliminate Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance policy for THC, which has been used without proof of impairment to penalize drivers who are registered medicinal cannabis patients.


Spotlight: Tsehaitu Abye, founder and CEO of Black Dragon Breakfast Club, on building community


"There's a lot of power in reclaiming narratives and telling your own story"

Tsehaitu Abye founded Black Dragon Breakfast Club (BDBC) in 2018. The lifestyle brand and marketing agency focuses on helping minorities and women enter the cannabis industry.

Abye founded BDBC after moving to Philadelphia from Hawaii, where she attended high school and college. In The City of Brotherly Love, Abye found that the cannabis scene was lacking, particularly for women of colour.

“I needed to build a community for individuals like myself,” she tells The GrowthOp from Philadelphia.

Four years later, Abye is heavily involved in the cannabis and art scene in the city and is still working to push Black-owned businesses forward.


Dr. Oz faces John Fetterman in unprecedented Senate race — and cannabis is on the table

Dr. Oz

In addition to his lucrative evidence-free advice, Dr. Oz recently said that legalizing recreational cannabis in PA would make people lose their motivation to go to work.

Celebrity Doctor Mehmet Oz officially became Pennsylvania's Republican Senate candidate when his opponent Dave McCormick conceded on Friday despite Oz's razor-thin lead of less than a thousand votes. (Benzinga)

Oz will now face Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in what’s expected to be one of the most-watched and most expensive Senate races in U.S. history.


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