In Berks County and the rest of the state of Pennsylvania, it is legal to cultivate cannabis but only by licensed medical marijuana growers for medical use. The state’s Department of Health (DOH) is implementing the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program created by Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act of 2016.
Those who wish to grow cannabis in Berks County and anywhere in the state must secure a permit from the Medical Marijuana Program. The DOH will be issuing only 25 medical cannabis growers permits throughout the state. After acquiring a permit, licensed growers are also required to undergo a training session for two hours.
To apply as a medical cannabis grower, the requirements are as follows:
A $10,000 non-refundable initial fee;
A $200,000 permit fee to be refunded if the application is denied;
Verifiable capital of $2 million, of which $500,000 must be shown as a deposit in a financial institution;
Verifiable compliance with municipal zoning regulations;
Verifiable capability to keep unauthorized activity out of the growing facility; and
A diversity strategy.
According to PA Code 1151.23, a registered medical cannabis growing establishment being used to grow, harvest, and store medical marijuana flowers, seeds, and both immature and grown plants is required to be inside an enclosed structure. The facility as a whole must be completely secure. Only authorized persons must be allowed entry and every visitor must always be escorted.
Zones for growing, non-cultivation, and restricted access must all be clearly marked with signs. Letters on signage must be at least half an inch high and the signs at least 12 inches by 12 inches in size. Any loading or unloading of flowers, seeds, or plants from any vehicle must be done away from the public's sight.
In Berks County as in the whole of Pennsylvania, it is legal to manufacture or process cannabis but only for medical use. To be able to do so, it is necessary to apply for a permit from the Medical Marijuana Program. Only 25 medical cannabis growers permits throughout Pennsylvania will be issued by the DOH.
The same criteria apply to applications for medical cannabis processing permits as they do to applications for medical cannabis cultivation permits. Each successful applicant for a medical cannabis processor authorization must also complete a two-hour training course.
Licensed medical cannabis processors are required by PA Code 1151.23 to process medicinal cannabis inside a building that is completely enclosed. It is necessary to maintain tight security in the entire property. Only authorized individuals must be permitted admission. Escorting is required at all times for guests.
Licensed medical cannabis processors are required to post signage that is clearly visible in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing areas as well as locations with maximum security. Signs must measure no smaller than 12 inches by 12 inches and must have letters that are at least one-half inch tall. Medical marijuana goods must never be loaded or unloaded from any vehicles in plain sight of the general public.
In Berks County as well as the rest of Pennsylvania, it is legal to sell cannabis by retail but only for medical use. Obtaining a license from the Pennsylvania Medicinal Marijuana Program of the DOH is required in order to operate a medical cannabis dispensary. The DOH will only authorize a total of 50 medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. A maximum of three locations will be permitted for each licensed dispensary. After securing a medical cannabis processor authorization, one must also undergo a two-hour training course.
To apply as a medical cannabis dispensary, the requirements are as follows:
A $5,000 non-refundable initial fee;
A $30,000 permit fee to be refunded if the application is denied;
Verifiable capital of $150,000;
Verifiable compliance with municipal zoning regulations;
Verifiable capability to keep unauthorized activity out of the dispensary facility;
A business plan; and
A diversity strategy.
Dispensaries are permitted to distribute medical cannabis and medical cannabis products such as cannabis-infused tablets, liquids, oils, extracts, tinctures, topical ointments, and vaporized medical cannabis with the exception of 600 forbidden vaporized cannabis products listed by the DOH. Those forbidden items have additives with no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for inhalation. Edibles and medical marijuana intended for smoking are not permitted for sale.
According to the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016 in Pennsylvania, dispensaries can only provide each patient with a supply of medical cannabis that is good for 30 days for each purchase, based on the prescription from a licensed physician.
On March 6, 2020, however, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency because of the Covid 19 pandemic. The DOH temporarily modified the Medical Marijuana Program in accordance with the proclamation, and the modifications lasted up to November 20, 2021. Within that time, the maximum quantity that could be sold to a person who held a medical marijuana card per transaction was raised to a 90-day supply based on the prescription. A state-approved medical professional had to annotate the cardholder's certification authorization.
Cannabis delivery is not legal in Berks County and the entire state of Pennsylvania even for medical marijuana companies. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act of 2016 stipulates that the dispensing of medical cannabis is only legal within a licensed dispensary.
However, the temporary pandemic-related modifications to the Medical Marijuana Program gave some flexibility in the mode of delivery from March 6, 2020 until November 20, 2021. Dispensary employees were permitted to convey the medicinal marijuana that patients who had valid medical marijuana cards had purchased from the dispensary to their waiting vehicles as long as those vehicles were parked on the dispensary's grounds.
Residents of Berks County and of any other county in the state of Pennsylvania may be eligible for the state's medicinal marijuana program and receive a medical marijuana card if they have one of the following diagnoses.
Sickle cell anemia
Severe chronic pain
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Opioid Use Disorder
Inflammatory bowel disease
Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity
Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders
Cancer, even in remission
Central nervous system damage
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Any terminal illness
They must first register online to get a patient identification number. Once they have a PIN, they must find a DOH-approved medical practitioner from this list. There are 31 DOH-approved medical practitioners in Berks County.
The condition of the patient will be determined by the state-licensed physician. If the condition is covered by the qualifying list of the DOH, the doctor will use the patient’s PIN on the online registry for certification. The patient will be required to pay for the consultation if their health insurance does not cover it.
Following that, the patient will get instructions via email on how to pay the $50 cost online. Some people who receive Medicaid, CHIP, PACE/PACENET, WIC, and SNAP benefits may be eligible for a fee waiver. Approximately 14 days following payment, the patient will get the medical marijuana card in the mail.
Minors and adult patients who require assistance may each have a maximum of two caregivers. The medical practitioner will include the need for this in the registry certification. Background checks for the carers will be necessary before registration.
All fees and taxes from medical cannabis will go to the Medical Marijuana Program Fund as stipulated by Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act of 2016. This does not include sales tax since that is not imposed on the selling of medical cannabis to patients, as reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
From those funds, 40% will be used by the Medical Marijuana Program to cover operations and outreach projects, while 15% will be allocated for:
Providing medical marijuana to patients who cannot afford to purchase it;
Reducing or entirely waiving the fees for marijuana medical cards for those who cannot afford it; and
Reimbursing background check costs for caregivers who are in financial distress.
The DOH research program on diseases that medical marijuana can be used for will receive 30% of the funds. That research could expand the list of diseases currently qualifying for medical marijuana treatment.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs will receive 10% of the funds for its drug abuse prevention program, counseling, and treatment services. Finally, 5% of the funds will go to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for distribution among local police departments, including Berks County. That fund is meant to be used only in relation to the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016.
Fees from medical marijuana come from licensing fees charged by the DOH to growers, processors, and dispensaries. In addition, a 5% excise tax is imposed on the gross sales of medical cannabis of growers and processors to dispensaries. Apart from that, all businesses related to medical marijuana, like other businesses, have to pay taxes depending on their business type and activities. This can include corporate net income tax, personal income tax, gross receipts tax, etcetera.
In February 2019, only 12 months after the legal sales of medical cannabis started, a total of $132 million in sales were reached. From that, growers and processors paid more than $2 million in excise taxes.
Since the legal sale of medical cannabis in Berks County and the whole of Pennsylvania began in February 2018, the previous year can be used as a baseline to compare crime rates. According to information reported by the Berks County Bureau of Narcotics on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, there were three arrests for drug abuse violations in 2017, of which two were for the manufacture or sale of drugs and one was for drug possession. This increased to five arrests for drug abuse violations in 2019, the latest data available. Of that, four were for the manufacture or sale of drugs and one was for drug possession.
According to information reported by the Berks County State Police, there were 407 DUI arrests in 2017. This decreased to 388 in 2019.