HARRISBURG — The first legal medical marijuana sales under a two-year-old state law began Thursday at a dispensary in western Pennsylvania, with the first purchase by a woman who lobbied for passage of the law.
A line of about a dozen people greeted employees as they opened the doors of the Cresco Yeltrah dispensary in Butler. Five other dispensaries are expected to start sales in the coming days.
Diana Briggs, of Export, said the $178 purchase she made should easily be enough to treat her 17-year-old son Ryan for a month.
She credits medical marijuana for reducing Ryan’s seizures from more than 400 to fewer than 50 a day.
“A very long and winding, four-year journey brought me here today,” Briggs said after buying a tincture and some capsules. “I have been crying all day.”
Cresco Yeltrah chief executive Charlie Bachtell said the first day of public operation was “so far, so good.”
“You forget, sort of, what that initial patient, that initial purchase, how long they’ve been waiting for it,” Bachtell said.
He said products ranged in price from $30 to $95. As a grower-producer, his company’s dispensary gets the product it sells from its own 46,000-square-foot growing facility about 60 miles away in Jefferson County.
Dispensaries are expected to open to customers Friday in Pittsburgh, Bethlehem and Enola, and on Saturday in Sellersville and Devon.
Medical insurance does not cover the cost of medical marijuana, neither doctor visits nor the medicine itself.
This stage of the implementation process is taking place ahead of schedule, less than two years after Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 16 into law.
“Seriously ill Pennsylvanians will be able to get relief earlier than expected thanks to the diligent efforts of regulators and operators,” said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project who helped lead the medical marijuana effort in the state Legislature. “There is still a lot of work to be done before implementation is complete. We are hopeful that the medical marijuana program will continue to be refined and improved to ensure patients have safe, reliable, and affordable access to their medicine.”
Wolf said Pennsylvania reached this historic day through a lot of hard work by many dedicated people at the state Department of Health and its Office of Medical Marijuana, and through the support of advocacy groups and parents, doctors, and patients whose tireless efforts helped make it a reality.
“My thanks to staff and supporters, and to the more than 700 physicians who have either completed or are in the process of completing the necessary steps to certify patients,” Wolf said. “The nearly 3,000 patients with medical marijuana ID cards (with more than 17,000 registered to participate in the program) are now able to find some relief from their serious medical conditions and, for that, I am most grateful.”
The Medical Marijuana Advisory Board is still in the process of making recommendations for changes to the program. The board met this week to discuss allowing patients to access medical marijuana flowers at dispensaries as a way to increase treatment options and lower costs for patients.