Editorial:7/30/2020 Pennsylvania MMJ legislation changes: Bring on Full Legalization

The Pennsylvania Cannabis industry is changing rapidly. (photo provided by Unsplash (Terre de Cannabis)

8/1/2020 Update:  A new post can be found HERE on how to update your PA-MMJ Card. (We also updated our logo, courtesy of Shutterstock)

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana patients were greeted with a pleasant surprise today as the following update was posted on the Department of Health Website:

The update on how to renew your card may be found HERE

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman engaged twitter today for the Pennsylvania MMJ community and recently has released a flurry of tweets regarding the desperate need to legalize soon to save our state budget:

The link to the original tweets: https://twitter.com/johnfetterman?lang=en

Appallingly, our country has relied on revenue from marijuana prohibition for almost a century; and the only way to make up for that deficit void in state funds that arresting, imprisoning, and otherwise ruining the lives of cannabis patients is by creating a robust cannabis-based economy.

Becoming a ‘United States Cannabis Capital‘ is attainable for Pennsylvania. We have the history, the culture, the climate, and the expertise of both our agriculture and the appeal of our robust metropolitan areas; of the combined efforts of lifelong cannabis activists and new patients- as well as educated support from our extensive network of health systems, colleges, and universities.

The only hesitation on the part of PA patients sharing this wealth of knowledge and skill openly are fear for their careers and potentially gaining undeserved criminal records while the future of undisputedly legal cannabis remains an unresolved issue in Harrisburg. Many readers have expressed that they feel unsafe in their jobs and communities if they expressed their full public support of cannabis under the current system of not-quite-but-almost legal we navigate daily.

No one has died from an overdose of cannabis in Pennsylvania; however, people have died from the reaction of police to cannabis possession; an even greater challenge moving forward will be the eventual release and restitution of those wrongly imprisoned for safely and non-violently medicating and enjoying cannabis products via our current unethical state of prohibition.

Should the legal protections of cannabis patients expand to protect against arrests or employment discrimination we will see a boom of skilled Pennsylvanians who have been waiting anxiously for legalization to start small businesses growing boutique strains, creating edibles, opening coffee shops, yoga studios and countless other opportunities that cannot even be fully conceptualized; the potential is limitless.

Truly, we can not only restore our economy, but bring levels of prosperity to our Commonwealth previously unseen in our lifetimes. (we hope)

This could also solve the problem found in many large-scale cannabis grow operations: reports of patients discovering their “safe” dispensary flower with evidence of spider mites and occasional mold have been common since throughout the history of the PAMMJ program:

Pennsylvania will soon discover the value of hiring independent state-licensed inspectors to assess all batches of salable product to prevent problems like this from occurring in our large scale growery operations and yet again, create more well paying, skilled jobs for the Commonwealth.

However, the real way to avoid such widespread problems in quality is by permitting the existence of small, boutique growers and granting them the right to sell their smaller batches of cannabis legally should their product pass thorough inspections cleanly. The competition from potential future artisan cannabis grown by private citizens and newly opened small businesses will increase the standards of all keystone state medical and recreational cannabis; and more competition equals better prices and consequently greater outcomes to our patients.

Excluding a few exceptions- the majority of Pennsylvania is comprised of extraordinarily fertile land at the ideal growing season and climate for cannabis cultivation. Further, indoor cannabis grow and manufacturing facilities approved by the Department of Health have provided several hundred jobs to Pennsylvania residents. No other industry has experienced such stable and exponential growth in an field that is so attractive to a varied population.

Economically, there is even a further sense of urgency to legalize and permit recreational dispensaries at an even faster pace than our neighbors: a large part of New Jersey shares our similar agricultural advantages and also has a huge edge on us for tourism. Lt. Gov. Fetterman agrees, from his recent tweets.

COVID-19 has deeply wounded New Jersey revenue from their annual beach and casino tourism; they are hungry for any possible revenue and we may find that if our legislation falls behind NJ in any way in the legalization process, their state will win tax revenue away from us as a desirable destination for cannabis related tourism.

Where do we go from here?

Very few situations exist with easy solutions, however, we are fortunate in Pennsylvania to live in a period where the answers are clear and the pathway to correct and rectifying actions are straight forward:

Legalize fully and rapidly. 

Still have dispensaries that are properly licensed and strictly regulated for quality and terpene percentages for patients-  but also have a recreational market that spans from being able to pick up bushels of Blue Dream from Amish farmer’s markets to slick boutiques with recessed lighting and exclusive membership fees.  In this logical and reasoned future view, you could grow it in your garden (in our historically famous fertile soils) and share it kindly with your neighbors-

The thought of this terrifies dispensary officials; however, that is old thinking.  New thinking should be more reflective of how to create a product that is both better as well as cheaper and easier than growing your own; sending moldy flower to dispensary for patients to purchase is not the correct way to move forward with our program.

Fully legalizing cannabis in all its forms, creating new industries around both Cannabis and industrial hemp, combined with the reinstatement of our famous rail system gives our residents the greatest hope for prosperity through the long term effects of both COVID-19 and our ongoing recession/statewide debt.

While we are awaiting full, unrestricted legalization where we can grow cannabis bonsai trees in our kitchen window gardens, what we can do is working on lowering the prices to a fair level that is accessible to more Pennsylvanians and continue our advocacy to create a better, more prosperous future for us all.โœจ

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