In accordance with Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act of 2016, cannabis cultivation is legal in Northampton County but only for medical use and only by growers licensed by the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program under the Department of Health (DOH). Only 25 medical cannabis grower permits will be issued by the program throughout the state. Upon receiving their license, medical cannabis growers are required to take a two-hour training course.
The following conditions must be met in order to qualify for the medical cannabis grower application:
A $10,000 initial charge that is non-refundable;
A $200,000 permit charge which is refundable for applications that are rejected;
$2 million in total capital, backed by documentation, and with $500,000 put in a bank;
Evidence of adhering to local zoning laws;
Evidence of the ability to protect the growing facility from unlawful activity; and
A diversification plan.
Registered medical cannabis cultivation facilities must do all medical cannabis growing inside, according to PA Code 1151.23. A licensed facility is authorized to grow, harvest, and keep mature and immature marijuana plants, as well as the plant's seeds and flowers. All related operations to medical cannabis, such as its being loaded and unloaded from vehicles, should be done out of the public's view at all times.
The entire complex must be completely protected. Only those who have been approved for entry are allowed in, and all visitors must always be escorted. Signage must clearly identify areas for cultivation and non-cultivation as well as restricted access areas. Letters on signs must be at least half an inch high and signage cannot be smaller than 12 inches by 12 inches in size.
In compliance with the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016 of Pennsylvania, cannabis manufacturing is legal in Northampton County but only for medical use and only by medical cannabis processors licensed by the DOH Medical Marijuana Program. There will only be 25 medical cannabis processor permits to be issued throughout the state by the program.
Applications for medicinal cannabis processor permits must meet the same criteria as those for medical cannabis grower permits. If they succeed, licensees must complete a two-hour training session.
All authorized medical cannabis processing facilities must be indoors according to PA Code 1151.23. All cannabis-related operations, including loading and unloading products from vehicles, cannot be witnessed by the general public.
Licensed medical cannabis processors are accountable for upholding the highest standard of security on the property. No one other than those with permission may enter, and admittance to some locations within the facility must be managed. Processing and non-processing areas as well as sections of the plant that require the highest security must be identified through prominently mounted signage. Letters must be at least half an inch tall and the signs must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches in size. When visitors are allowed, they must always be escorted.
The Medical Marijuana Act of 2016 of Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis retail, including in Northampton County, but this is limited to the sale of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products by licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
Only 50 medical marijuana dispensary permits will be issued statewide by the DOH Medical Marijuana Program. A licensed dispensary may operate no more than three sites. Licensees are required to participate in the two-hour training course after obtaining a license.
The prerequisites for medical cannabis dispensary application are as follows:
a $5,000 initial payment that is non-refundable;
a $30,000 permit charge that is refundable if applications are rejected;
Total capital of $150,000;
A business plan;
A plan for diversity;
Documentation demonstrating compliance with municipal zoning laws; and
Documentation demonstrating the ability to safeguard the dispensary facility against any illegal activity.
Licensed dispensaries are permitted to sell medical marijuana and medical marijuana products such as oils, liquids, tinctures, extracts, tablets infused with cannabis, and ointments for topical use. Except for the 600 vaporized cannabis items included on the DOH list of prohibited products, they are also allowed to dispense medical cannabis that has been vaporized. The listed forbidden goods contain ingredients that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized for inhalation by humans. Dispensaries are prohibited to sell medical marijuana in the form of edibles or marijuana for smoking.
According to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act of 2016, licensed dispensaries are only permitted to give medical marijuana cardholders a 30-day supply of cannabis at the most, depending on the patient's prescription. Through the online register, the dispensary is in charge of tracking and verifying the patient's transactions.
On March 6, 2020, however, because of the Covid pandemic, a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency was issued by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. That resulted in the DOH implementing a temporary modification of the Medical Marijuana Program. The modification had to be extended up to November 20, 2021. During that time, medical cannabis cardholders were allowed to purchase up to a 90-day supply from licensed dispensaries, according to their prescription. However, a state-approved medical expert had to first annotate the cardholder's certification authority.
Cannabis delivery is illegal in Pennsylvania, including in Northampton County. Licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are only allowed to legally dispense medical marijuana indoors within their retail facilities in compliance with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act of 2016.
Medicinal cannabis dispensing was permitted curbside only from March 6, 2020, through November 20, 2021, during the interim changes to the Medical Marijuana Program. Employees of the dispensary were authorized to bring the medical marijuana purchases out to the medical marijuana cardholders as long as they were inside a waiting vehicle parked on the facility's property.
To apply for a Medical Marijuana Program card, residents of Northampton County should first register online to be given a patient identification number (PIN). They should then schedule a consultation with a listed DOH-approved medical practitioner. There are 30 such practitioners listed for Northampton County. The patient will pay for the consultation if it is not covered by health insurance.
The patient must be diagnosed to have any of the following medical conditions to qualify for the Medical Marijuana Program:
Severe chronic pain
Sickle cell anemia
Opioid Use Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
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
The doctor will certify the diagnosis using the patient’s PIN on the online registry. Awaiting the email with information on how to pay the $50 application fee is the patient's next step. Recipients of the following may be exempt from paying this fee:
PACE/PACENET prescription assistance
Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The medical marijuana card will be mailed to the patient in around 14 days.
Every patient who is a minor or an adult patient in need of assistance is allowed to have up to two caregivers. This must be indicated in the registry by the doctor. Background checks will be done on caregivers before their registration is approved.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, there is no sales tax on the purchase of medical marijuana. However, growers and processors must pay an excise tax of 5% on the total medicinal cannabis sales they make to dispensaries. Additionally, all marijuana-related firms are required to pay the standard taxes that other companies are required to pay based on their operations and business model, including the gross receipts tax, corporation net income tax, personal income tax, and others. The licensing costs that medical marijuana producers, processors, and dispensaries pay to the DOH are another source of state revenue from marijuana enterprises.
In February 2018, medical cannabis became available for purchase. Sales after only a year went up to $132 million. Growers and processors paid a total of $2 million in excise duty on that.
The Medical Marijuana Program Fund must receive all funds collected from medical cannabis taxes and fees under Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act of 2016. The Medical Marijuana Program will receive 55% of such funds, with 40% going toward operating costs and outreach initiatives, and 15% going toward:
helping patients in financial need by providing them with medical marijuana as prescribed for free or at greatly reduced prices,
Providing free or reduced medical marijuana card fees, and
Reimbursing the cost of caregiver background checks.
30% of medical marijuana funds go to the DOH's research program on disorders that can be treated with marijuana. This could broaden the range of conditions that can be qualified for the program.
From the remaining medical marijuana revenues, 10% is allocated to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, to be utilized for its programs on drug misuse prevention, counseling, and treatment. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency distributes the remaining 5% of medicinal marijuana revenue to local police agencies, including the ones in Northampton County, for any use permitted by the Medical Marijuana Act of 2016.
In Pennsylvania, including Northampton County, medical cannabis was legalized in February 2018. On the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, the Pennsylvania State Police reports that in 2017, there were 61 arrests for drug abuse violations in Northampton County, of which 40 were for marijuana possession and six were for marijuana manufacturing or sales. In 2019, the latest available data, arrests for drug abuse violations increased to 87, of which 56 were for marijuana possession and two were for marijuana manufacturing or sales.
There were 299 DUI arrests in Northampton County in 2017. This decreased to 232 arrests in 2019.