Pa. releases medical marijuana 'roadmap' for entrepreneurs

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Growing marijuana would require organic pest control under proposed Pa. regulations.

The regulations that will govern Pennsylvania's nascent medical-marijuana industry are quickly taking shape. The state released a draft of the rules Thursday that all aspiring cannabis growers and processors will have to follow to win - and keep - one of 25 potentially lucrative permits.

Gov. Wolf signed the medical-marijuana bill into law in April. Patients with one of 17 medical conditions expect to be able to buy state-approved cannabis by 2018.

The draft regulations - more than 90 pages of them - define how Pennsylvania marijuana should be cultivated, protected, and tracked.

"They've given us a pretty clear roadmap of what they consider important," said Patrick Nightingale, a former Allegheny County prosecutor who is now executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.

Some of the draft rules include:

No out-of-state marijuana plants can be brought into Pennsylvania at any time. Growers will have a 30-day window to import seeds for their first crops, but subsequent crops must be grown with seeds, clones, or grafts produced at in-state facilities.

Natural essential oils and other organic materials should be used for controlling pests, insects, and fungi.

Public officials and state employees will not be allowed to hold a financial interest in a medical marijuana operation. They also will be barred from working in the medical marijuana industry for a year after they leave government employment.

Permits to grow and process medical marijuana can be transferred to another entity if approved by the state. The location of a growing or processing facility also can be changed with state approval.

The state Department of Health must promote racial diversity and make certain opportunities are available for minority owners, employees and contractors within the industry. Each medical marijuana business must have a diversity plan.

Business interests and marijuana advocates praised the new proposals. "For a first draft, this is really well thought out" said Michael Bronstein, the Philadelphia based cofounder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp.

"These regulations take into account what other states have done successfully and what other states would have liked to have done better," Bronstein said, "but the Pennsylvania program is its own animal."

The regulations would create one of the most diversity-friendly programs in the country, said Chris Goldstein, an activist and Philly.com columnist.

"But the reality is that black business owners, just like everyone else, would still have to have millions in the bank to qualify for a permit," Goldstein said.

Draft regulations governing dispensaries are likely to be released before the end of the year, said a spokesman for the state Department of Health.

samwood@phillynews.com

215-854-2796@samwoodiii

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