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Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Law, Health Care Providers, and Enforcement

With other members of our Firm’s Regulated Cannabis Group, I recently co-authored an article for the Life Sciences, Pharmaceuticals, and Health Care Supplement of The Legal Intelligencer. We examined Pennsylvania’s April 2016 medical marijuana law from four essential legal standpoints – professional liability, health care law, employment law, and enforcement – and the related implications for health care providers in the state.

Implementation of the law should take 18-24 months, but while the specific regulations and enforcement protocols are still in development, health care providers are already preparing for how to best weave medical marijuana into their medical and pharmacy practices. They do so while also keeping an eye on the overarching federal regulations that may supersede state law.

For The Legal Intelligencer, I looked at the enforcement and potential criminal legal landscape that awaits physicians and providers. While states continue to embrace certain types of marijuana legalization, the fact remains that DEA still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I illegal controlled substance – a status reaffirmed by DEA as recently as August 2016. Nevertheless, in the past few years, DOJ has announced in guidance documents that it will not enforce certain conduct involving marijuana, but DOJ qualified its informal decriminalization by placing responsibility on state and local authorities to appropriately regulate marijuana activities in their jurisdictions.

From an August 2013 DOJ Memorandum from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole:

"The department's guidance ... rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests."

For physicians and health care providers in Pennsylvania, this means that strict compliance with state laws in connection with participating in a medical marijuana practice and avoiding the types of criminal conduct specified by the DOJ in its guidance documents may well provide strong legal defenses for an individual accused of violating federal, but not state, offenses involving marijuana certification.

You can read our full article here.

Disclaimer: This post does not offer specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. You should not reach any legal conclusions based on the information contained in this post without first seeking the advice of counsel.