Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Sunday to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, ending a nearly two-year effort to approve use of the drug.
Pennsylvania is now the 24th state to make it legal.
Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, said it will take up to 24 months to implement the program.
“This includes the process of finding and setting up the growers and distributors, setting up dispensaries and identifying and certifying patients and providers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Robinson said.
The bill sets standards for tracking plants, certifying physicians and licensing growers, dispensaries and physicians. Patients could take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor, ointment or liquid form, but would not be able to legally obtain marijuana to smoke or grow. The bill is also expected to have high registration fees, as well as tax growers and processors to help pay for research.
Robinson said the first required step for a patient is evaluation by a medical doctor who has to certify in writing that the patient has a serious medical condition.
“The patient will submit the form to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in order to receive a patient identification card for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program,” Robinson said. “Once they have received the identification card, patients can go to one of the 150 dispensaries located across the commonwealth, present the card and purchase medical marijuana.”
With the program being finalized over the next two years, patients can still earn their identification card and purchase medical marijuana from any other state where it's legal.
The certification process will cover both adults and children. However, anyone under the age of 18 must have a caregiver who is approved by the department.
According to Robinson, studies show medical marijuana can reduce pain for patients with serious medical conditions such as AIDS, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain and seizures.
A full list of these medical conditions can be found on the Department of Health’s website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.