Prices have come down, but many Pennsylvania patients still pay $200 or more a month for medical marijuana, according to initial results from a survey of more than 3,200 people across the state.
The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board presented the findings of the anonymous online survey at its meeting last week.
The first dispensaries authorized under Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program started selling products two years ago. Patients must have one of 23 approved conditions, be certified by a participating doctor and register with the state to participate.
Here's an overview of the survey's key findings.
Majority pay $200 or more
Statewide, 59% reported paying $200 or more a month for dispensary products.
Cost was a major reason for stopping
The survey didn't specifically ask how many stopped using medical marijuana.
But of those who did, the survey said, reasons included
- 61% said they couldn't afford it
- 41% said they couldn't find a consistent supply of what they needed
- 42% said they stopped because insurance didn't cover it
- 22% said they were concerned about legal protections
Pennsylvania's law says health insurance is not required to cover medical marijuana, and there have not been reports that any insurers have voluntarily decided to cover it.
Anxiety now ranks second
Severe chronic or intractable pain remains the primary reason Pennsylvania residents are approved to use medical marijuana, accounting for 45% of patients.
Anxiety disorders, which were added as a qualifying condition in July 2019, is second at just under 15%.
Post-traumatic stress disorder — widely known as PTSD — is third, at 12%.
Patients want more
Overall, half the patients said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the selection of products at Pennsylvania dispensaries, and half said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied.
The state department of health regulates Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program, and spokesman Nate Wardle said the main takeaways from the survey results were increasing accessibility and affordability.
"We believe that the growth of our grower/processors, and also the increase in their capacity, will help with accessibility to the various strains and products that people are looking for. The numbers bear out a very successful program," he said in an email.
He also noted that since dry leaf was added to the program in August 2018, the average cost decreased from $140 to $118, and the department expects continued growth of the market to push the price down further.
According to Wardle, 21 grower/processors are operational, with 15 of them shipping to dispensaries, and the department will be encouraging expansion plans as part of the permit renewal process.
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The recommendations, made recently by Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board, would need further actions to go into effect — approval from Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on the conditions, and action from the legislature on adding edibles, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle.
Former Lancaster County resident Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, said legalization won’t happen in Pennsylvania until it gets some Republican support, and right now he’s not aware of any. But, he said, “I think when Republican legislators understand that many of their own constituents agree with this, they’re going to come around.”