Pennsylvania Expands Medical Marijuana Laws In The State To Allow For Vaping
The law allows for the dry herb to be sold, where previously patients in PA were only allowed to get weed in liquid or pill form
Medical marijuana is a topic that has gained a lot of traction and backing over the last ten years. It’s gone from something seen as purely a loophole for potheads, to something that truly serves legitimate and life-changing purposes for people suffering from a myriad of conditions. While the federal government still refuses to recognize the benefits, state after state is implementing or extending their medical marijuana laws, with some even legalizing recreational use.
Pennsylvania has had a rocky history with the vaping industry, including a 2016 decision to place a 40% wholesale tax on all vaping products sold in the state. But it seems they’re coming around to the harm reduction benefits vaping provides, as they’ve decided to expand their laws in a way that’s no small endorsement of vaping. For the first time, medical marijuana patients in PA will be allowed to buy the traditional dry herb form of weed, but only if they are willing to use a vaporizer instead of smoking it.
The Policy Update
Pennsylvania is one of the more recent states to implement medical marijuana, having only passed it into law back in April of 2016. Up until now, patients have had access to marijuana in oil, pill, or other liquid forms. While this has proven to be a popular and effective program, many have advocated for access to the traditional form of the drug to improve processing times and pricing. In fact, the Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf made both these points when discussing the new policy update. While some are concerned that patients will go over their doctors head and smoke the dry herbs anyway, others are willing to trust that patients will opt for the safer alternative.
In addition to adding vaporized dry herbs to the list of approved delivery methods, the policy update makes a few other changes. It expands the list of conditions that are covered by the treatment, including neurodegenerative diseases, spastic movement disorders, as well as any form of palliative care. The medical marijuana advisory board who recommended the changes also added treatment for opioid addiction to the list of conditions covered, a stance that has seen growing support over the last several years.
After Careful Consideration
The Health Secretary for Pennsylvania, Rachel Levine, had the final call in this decision. She said that she only approved the recommendations after “careful consideration.” She likely poured over the growing mountain of evidence that indicates a clear and distinct benefit to vaping over smoking. In 2015, Public Health England concluded that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, and just last fall a study found that the excess lifetime cancer risk of vapers in over 57,000 times lower than for a smoker. While both of these studies compared vaping with cigarette smoking, the fact remains that some dangerous substances found in cigarette smoke, such as tar, are found in ample amounts in any smoke.
The Health Secretary recognized that vaping, while not harmless, represents a much safer and more effective way to transition people onto medical marijuana treatment plans. Organizations such as the British Psychological Society have indicated that part of the effectiveness of vaping as a substitute for smoking may lie in its ability to satisfy many of the psychological cues, such as producing a cloud or bringing your hand to your face, that pills simply cannot replicate.
However you may feel about things, the commonwealth will begin offering dry herb to medical marijuana patients sometime in the late summer of this year. Given how PA decided to tax the vaping industry just two years ago it’s somewhat of a surprise to see the same legislators take a firm stance in support of the utility of vaping as an alternative to smoking. But this is a massive step in the right direction. One of the most significant battles we have to win in the fight for vaping rights is getting the general public to understand that vaping and smoking are not the same process and therefore have massively different risk levels.
Once we can educate more of the population, it’ll become more viable to push for increased access and rights for the vaping community. It’ll also give vaping advocacy groups a more legitimate standing in fights against increasing taxes and fees. Medical marijuana has been helping patients across the country feel better for many years, and soon it’ll be available in a cheaper and more straightforward form for patients in Pennsylvania.
Do you think it’s a good thing that PA is moving to allow vaping of dry herbs in their state? How can we improve the public perception of vaping as a harm reduction tool? Do you believe that policy updates like this will have the desired effect of making access easier and safer? Let us know your answers to any and all of these questions down in the comments, and don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.