HARRISBURG, Pa. – Regulators in Pennsylvania have approved a major expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program.
On Thursday officials announced that the program will license 13 additional cannabis producers. Currently, there are 12 approved producers in Pennsylvania. Regulators also approved 25 more cannabis dispensaries to operate in the state.
State officials will begin fielding applications for the additional growers, processors, and dispensary operator licenses starting on April 5.
The news comes as Congress approved its spending bill and section 538 which offers protections for cannabis patients and businesses operating in accordance with state law.
However, officials in Pennsylvania appear willing to take things a bit further. Regulators are allowing universities and medical schools to research cannabis. Although cannabis has been used for thousands of years and has increased in popularity dramatically for both medical and recreational users, there has been little in the way of official research since it is a federally banned Schedule One narcotic. Pennsylvania is the first state to approve cannabis research.
“From what I’ve seen and heard, there seems to be a high interest in doing research around pain management and as a replacement for opioids,” John Collins, director of the state marijuana program, said in a phone conference with reporters.
According to The Hill, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine has already indicated that it will seek approval to research cannabis. The cannabis provided for research will come from separate growers from the medicinal market and will require different licenses.
Pennsylvania approved medical cannabis in 2016. Regulations were debated and finalized during 2017 and the state’s first dispensaries opened earlier this year.
Currently, there are 13 cannabis dispensaries operating, not all are able to keep up with demand. Dispensaries have been experiencing a shortage of cannabis as only two growers are currently supplying all of the shops in the state.
So far, approximately 25,000 residents have started the application process for a medical cannabis card with about 9,000 already approved. About 6700 residents have legally been able to purchase medical cannabis in Pennsylvania.