Friday, September 2, 2016
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania General Assembly recently passed bills legalizing two forms of plants in the Cannabis genus: medical marijuana and industrial hemp. Previously, plants in the Cannabis genus were banned by the Noxious Weed Law in Pennsylvania as well as other state laws.
Both of these programs may provide opportunities for Pennsylvania nursery growers.
Medical marijuana was legalized by Act 16 of 2016, signed by Governor Wolf in April. The act allows the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical purposes under very tightly controlled conditions.
The implementation of the program is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and, when completed, will offer medical marijuana to patients who are under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is the lead agency in implementing the program, but will be assisted by the Department of Agriculture and the State Police. Regulations implementing the program are expected to be issued in October 2016.
The newly passed legislation will allow for 25 grower/processor licenses, five of which will allow holders to open up to three dispensaries each, and 50 dispensing licenses, which also permit up to three dispensaries each. The preparation to submit an application for a license is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1 million.
The very tight security requirements for medical marijuana growers will also be a consideration for potential growers. Growing facilities will need electronic security and surveillance systems, plus a “seed to sale” tracking system. The costs of such systems could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For more information on the medical marijuana program, call the Department of Health at (877) 724-3258.
The growing of industrial hemp was authorized for “research” purposes in Pennsylvania by Act 92, signed in July by the governor. The new law mostly applies to the Agriculture Department (PDA) and colleges and universities. Through a pilot program, those who are registered can grow and market the product. The law’s newly created Hemp Research Board within PDA will oversee operations and monitor regulations and guidelines.
The industrial hemp program is just getting rolling and PDA says it expects to have guidelines out on the program later this year. Their goal is to have initial crops planted for the 2017 growing season.
For more information on industrial hemp, contact PDA at (717) 787-4737.