Pennsylvania patients will see improved access to medical marijuana after Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday approved new updates to the five-year-old law that first legalized it.
Some changes will continue efforts that began during the pandemic, such as permanently allowing curbside pickup and a three-month supply.
Other changes are new, such as allowing caregivers to pick up the drug on behalf of more than one patient.
“It’s been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program’s successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law,” Wolf said in a statement.
“This legislation provides important updates to our state’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication.”
The new law adds cancer remission therapy and neuropathies of the central nervous system to the list of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana, and it expands the number of research facilities that study patient response to the drug.
The bill Wolf signed, which passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, gives the state agriculture secretary a month to make public the list of pesticides used by growers and producers. The list will be published in August and updated every year.
Updates to the new law make it easier for producers to remove contaminants, such as yeast and mold, supporters of the law said.
That’s one of the reasons Rep. Paul Schemel, R-Franklin, introduced the bill.
“Growers are saying, ‘We have adequate supply, we have a way to safely remediate it,'” Schemel said. “This simply gives them a mechanism by which they can do that.”
Chris Goldstein, a Pennsylvania regional organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the Associated Press the legislation moved quickly and without hearings to gather input from patients and their caregivers.
“The bill actually has a lot of provisions that are industry friendly, and most controversial is to allow remediation of mold in cannabis flowers by extracting it into new products,” Goldstein said. “I think that’s where patient voices could have been heard.”
Advocates say the changes didn’t go far enough to reduce costs in Pennsylvania, which are among the highest in the country at about $500 an ounce.
And it’s not covered by insurance.
As of last year, there were about 300,000 patients registered to buy medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, a state report found.
Goldstein said allowing patients to grow their own plants at home would have helped those who can’t afford prices at dispensaries.
A plan to permit patients to grow their own marijuana was defeated in the state.
Wolf also couldn’t get enough bipartisan support to legalize recreational marijuana in the recent legislative session, despite voter support.
“The vast majority of Pennsylvanians support legalizing marijuana,” Wolf said. “But the legislative session just ended without lawmakers getting a bill to my desk. I’m going to keep pushing for legalization and restorative justice until we get it done.”
Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capital Bureau. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.