It’s easy to get a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania, even if you aren’t yet diagnosed with a legally acceptable condition.
I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and certified for my MMJ card in the same appointment. This all took place online via video chat that lasted less than 15 minutes. I received my card five days later.
The medical conditions for which you can obtain a Medical Marijuana Card in the state of Pennsylvania are…. (from PA.gov’s guide):
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Cancer, including remission therapy.
- Crohn’s disease.
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the central nervous system (brain-spinal cord) with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and other associated neuropathies.
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders.
- HIV / AIDS.
- Huntington’s disease.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Intractable seizures.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Neurodegenerative diseases.
- Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain.
- Sickle cell anemia.
- Terminal illness.
- Tourette syndrome.
Many people who have these conditions also find that the more legal and widely available CBD helps them. CBD is made from hemp (now defined by US law as Cannabis sativa with less than 0.3% THC). Hemp was made legal nationwide in December 2018 by the passage of the Farm Bill. However there are some state restrictions on CBD and hemp. THC and Marijuana is the opposite… legal in some states, but not yet federally legal.
Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014. Pittsburgh did the same in 2015. Many other municipalities followed. Most of the municipal laws are similar. Here in Pittsburgh, anyone without a medical marijuana card caught with an ounce or less faces a $25 fine, maximum.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2016 in most forms except for dry flower. The PA Medical Marijuana Program was set up to issue licenses to dispensaries and grow-ops, and to issue medical marijuana cards to citizens.
In 2018 the law was amended to allow dry flower marijuana to be sold, which is only legal to ingest via dry-vaping or eating. The state warns that if one is caught putting a flame to a bud and sucking the smoke into their lungs, they could lose their cards. I imagine this is an attempt to protect people from second hand smoke. In 2019 the law was amended again to expand the qualifying medical conditions.
With the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, SB350 now in the PA General Assembly, recreational marijuana legalization seems to be on the horizon. The act legalizes weed for adults 21 and over, expunges prior marijuana-related sentences, and has no limit on the amount of growers and dispensaries that can be licensed. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is an advocate for recreational marijuana. In 2019 he traveled to every county in Pennsylvania on a “listening tour” about the topic. Governor Tom Wolf says he will sign SB350 if it makes it to his desk.
How to Get Your Card
Fill out the online form. The state will create an account, give you a Patient ID number, and send you a confirmation email. This step is free.
2. Find a doctor who will certify you
The PA MMJ website has a list of “approved practitioners” who can certify patients for medical marijuana. Some doctors will diagnose and certify you in 15 minutes. Others are less enthusiastic about issuing a card to everyone who gives them a fee, but want the option to certify for some of their patients.
There are two easy ways to find the right doctor. In both cases, the certification will usually cost about $150-$200, and the state fee for the card is $50.
Finding a Doctor Method 1: Make an appointment to attend a certification event
Do you suffer from anxiety disorders, chronic pain, cancer, or one of the other 23 qualifying medical conditions? Do you have questions about medical marijuana or need help obtaining your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card? Join Dr. John Metcalf and the Maitri Medicinals team for on-site medical marijuana card certifications and education.
Check the website of a dispensary near you for similar events.
Finding a Doctor Method 2: Use a company that will connect you with a doctor for the sole purpose of getting a medical marijuana card
I was able to set up a video appointment through Veriheal. They also offer in-person appointments in your local area. Other such companies are Medical Marijuana Specialists and Compassionate Certification Centers.
The morning after the appointment, I received emails from both Veriheal and the state of PA notifying me that I was certified to legally possess marijuana.
If you are already diagnosed with one of the approved medical conditions, you can just provide your medical records to the doctor. If you have one of the conditions but haven’t been formally diagnosed, you should write down your symptoms, history, other methods of treatment, and why you believe medical marijuana will help you. For my video appointment I provided a PDF of a medical record showing that I was diagnosed with alcohol abuse in the past, and explained that I had been using alcohol to self-medicate the anxiety.
It helps that I really do have anxiety. A friend of mine was diagnosed with back pain many years ago. When he went to get certified, they asked him, “Do you still have this back pain?” He replied, “Yes” to that question. He now has a medical marijuana card.
3. Pay the state and wait
The state will email you once they receive certification from your doctor. You then pay them $50. They tell you to wait an estimated 10 business days. My card came in the mail five days after I paid for it. Sometimes the pace of government can surprise you, especially if you’re a cannabis advocate.
4. Get yourself to a dispensary and buy some
My experience at Maitri Medicinals in Pittsburgh was excellent. They ask patients to make an appointment for their first visit. I was greeted at the door by an extra friendly armed security guard who is dressed exactly like a police officer. He actually might be a police officer. This is weird, because if I was going somewhere to buy weed in the past, and a cop opens the door, my instinct is to turn around and run away. After realizing my heart attack was entirely unjustified, I walked upstairs where a friendly receptionist checked me in. I waited for less than 10 minutes. The music in the waiting room was good music. This was my first time legally purchasing medicinal marijuana, and the first time hearing good music in a waiting room.
A friendly young woman called my name and took me into a room with display cases containing empty boxes of cannabis products. She asked if I had ever been to a dispensary before. I told her that I had, in Colorado. She explained that unlike in a recreational dispensary, all of the products come to the dispensary from the supplier fully boxed, and are kept in the back room. You’re not allowed to smell the product, look at it, or handle it. Don’t point. Do not taunt happy fun ball.
She also informed me that there is currently a massive shortage of dry flower marijuana in Pennsylvania. This is due to limits on the number of grow-op permits the PA MMJ program can issue. Candy and baked goods edibles are not allowed to be sold. But the state allows us to make those at home out of the legally available products. Thanks, State. We weren’t gonna ask but, we appreciate it.
She gave me a consultation that included information on different strains and effects. I told her what I wanted. She walked into the back to retrieve the products: two disposable vape pens, a tincture in a dropper bottle, and a container of capsules. I bought no dry flower that day, which the state says we cannot smoke even in the privacy of our own homes, lest our cards be confiscated.
I’d be glad to help any citizen of Pennsylvania obtain their medical marijuana card. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. -Brian