Marijuana Reform News

Medicinal Marijuana in Pennsylvania FAQ

marijuana law reformWith the long awaited announcement of the recipients of Medicinal Cannabis Licenses, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania moves ever closer to bringing Act 16 to life, joining a majority of states recognizing the medicinal value of cannabis.

There are many questions about Pennsylvania’s Medicinal Marijuana legislation (Act 16), so we thought we’d address some of the most frequently asked questions here.

Keep in mind, Pennsylvania is treating medicinal cannabis as medicine, subject to the same restrictions and quality control standards for any other medicine available to the public– prescription or otherwise. Because of marijuana’s status as a recreational drug, there are some additional regulations in place to ensure the law is not abused by those simply looking to get high.

 

1. What are the qualifying medical conditions covered under Act 16?
A serious medical condition is any one of the following listed under the statute:

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Autism
Cancer
Crohn’s Disease
Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.
Epilepsy
Glaucoma
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Huntington’s Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
Intractable Seizures
Multiple Sclerosis
Neuropathies
Parkinson’s Disease
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective
Sickle Cell Anemia

2. Will I be able to possess and smoke marijuana legally if I have a qualifying condition?

Smoking cannabis is strictly prohibited under the Act.  No patient with a recommendation may smoke cannabis.  Additionally, dry flower or dry herb is NOT an approved medical marijuana product under Act 16.  The DOH can considering dry flower as a “medical marijuana product” but ingestion would be restricted to vaporization and not smoking.

3. Can my current physician recommend medicinal cannabis for me if I have a qualifying condition?

Your physician must be qualified to treat your condition, and you must be under the physician’s “continuing care.”  The physician must complete a 4 hour training course approved by the DOH and the physician must register with the DOH.  The registration is reviewed annually.  (There is a link on DOH website for info to provide your physician)

4. Can I get ‘pre-certified’ for medical cannabis treatment?

The short answer is, No. Check out my recent blog on this topic for more information.

5. What qualifies as an approved medical cannabis delivery method, ie: medicine,  under Act 16?

Vaporization, nebulization, oral ingestion of oil or pill, topical.  IF a physician recommends a patient MAY incorporate their medical marijuana product in to an “edible” but edibles are otherwise prohibited.

6. Will I be allowed to grow marijuana for personal use to treat a qualifying medical condition?

Absolutely not.  PA does not permit “home grow” in any form whatsoever.  A single plant is a felony “manufacturing marijuana” offense.

7. Am I allowed to drive if I am a legal medicinal cannabis patient?

Act 16 places a 10 ng/ml limi of active THC.  Unfortunately, a patient may find him or herself over this limit merely by using their medicine.  A MMJ patient in PA runs a very real risk of a DUI even if using pursuant to their recommendation.

8. Can being a medicinal cannabis patient affect my employment status?

There is no single answer for this question. There are many factors involved, but it basically comes down to issues involving safety, security and insurance coverage.  Drug testing is often part of employment contracts. Even if an employer recognizes medicinal marijuana, their insurance provider(s) may not.
Legally speaking, employers have a right to know if an employee is using prescription drugs with deleterious effects, especially jobs involving heavy machinery, driving, law enforcement, EMS personnel, etc.

9. Will medicinal cannabis treatment be covered by my health insurance?

There is no medical insurance coverage for MMJ.  Act 16 specifically sets forth that insurance carriers are NOT required to provide coverage.
This doesn’t mean they won’t, but providers have thus far been silent regarding inclusion of  MM in their coverage. We suggest contacting your provider for more information.

10. Will medicinal cannabis products be available at my local pharmacy?

No – medical marijuana products will ONLY be available via a licensed dispensary.  A patient’s purchases will be tracked preventing a patient from “double dipping”.  Medical marijuana products MUST be kept in their original packaging.  A patient may only possess up to a 30 day supply.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedicinal Marijuana in Pennsylvania FAQ
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The Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestThe legal status of Marijuana does far more harm to citizens than using it ever could.

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

“Tom” goes boating with friends over the holiday weekend on the river in Middleofnowhere County.  He was excited because he had saved up his money and bought a new boat, which he was taking on it’s maiden voyage.

Pennsylvania Fish and Game officers show up and pull him over — we’re still not clear on what their initial reason was– but they end up searching “Tom” and find a whopping gram of weed and a small pipe.

Fish and Game officers policing marijuana instead of protecting Bambi and Thumper is a mystery to me, but instead of just issuing a citation on what should be a simple matter, they arrest “Tom” and the floodgates of potential life-long repercussions open wide.

Just getting arrested, let alone convicted of a crime, has immediate negative ramifications. Family, friends, and more problematic, employers, are all suddenly sources of stress.

Hiring legal representation, missing time for court dates, which are often rescheduled, further dragging out the process and the emotional stress for the accused and their loved ones.

Employers in particular are not likely to ignore an arrest, especially if there are security and safety issues at play.

A marijuana possession conviction automatically results in suspension of driving privileges and can carry substantial fines, as well as a period of probation. Worst of all, it stays on your record.  This can adversely affect employment options and even restrict one’s ability to travel abroad.

Suddenly “Tom” goes from enjoying a holiday on his new boat to facing a complete disruption of his life. All over a gram of weed.

All because of the law.

Does that sound like Justice to you?

In Part 2, we’ll talk about a young lady who could — with the help of the police– graduate from marijuana to heroin in a most unexpected way.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”
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Marijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.

marijuana law reformWARNING: The following story might make you angry.

An epileptic woman from Michigan visits a relative in Pennsylvania.  She had moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania because medicinal cannabis was the only medicine that was working to alleviate her seizures.  Her husband is her caregiver, and he uprooted his whole life to move his wife to a state where she could legally take medicine for a documented medical condition.  That’s how much he believes in the efficacy of medicinal marijuana, based entirely on his own experience caring for an epileptic.

She has a medical card from her state of residency.  She has a medical condition that qualifies for treatment under Pennsylvania’s Act 16.  For her, in her mind, this is simply medicine.  It’s no different– in her mind– than carrying a vial of prescription medication in her purse.

Unfortunately, her original arrest happened before Act 16 became a reality, in a county where they are not prone to cutting breaks for marijuana possession.

In Pittsburgh, a small amount possession charge is a ticket. No cuffs, no jail, no court appearance. A ticket. Pay the fine and it’s done.

In many of the rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh, a marijuana charge can be catastrophic.  It can affect a person’s ability to get certain jobs. It can impact things like insurance rates and school loans. It often results in the loss of driving privileges. For a young person, it can ruin their life before it gets started.

In this instance, it’s penalizing someone for legally treating her legitimate medical condition, all because she’s in a different state in the same “One nation, under God”.

As was mentioned earlier, this was the original charge, but it gets worse.

Because the county elected to pursue this through the court system, as opposed to just reducing it to a disorderly conduct with a fine, they released her, but an appearance in court before a judge was required.  This meant the woman had to travel from Michigan back to Pennsylvania, all over a simple possession charge.

Unfortunately this woman never received her court papers. She thought they had taken mercy and dropped the charges, and so she never appeared in court. It was an honest mistake resulting from either a clerical error or simply, a lost piece of mail.

Missing a court date is never good, and even in what began as a minor offense becomes magnified and can make an otherwise routine situation much worse. It opens a person up to additional charges, and will result in the issuance of a “Bench Warrant”.

A Bench Warrant does not offer any specifics as to what the person was charged with, so a police officer who discovers a warrant will treat any such situation as potentially life threatening.  In this instance, the discovery of the warrant occurred in Ohio, where the woman had been pulled over in a traffic stop and she was once again found to possess marijuana. Ohio recently decriminalized marijuana, but because of the warrant, instead of getting a ticket and being sent on her way, she was arrested, taken to jail and held for over a week until she could be extradited back to Pennsylvania.

All because she had a small possession charge, even though she had a state issued medical card for treating epilepsy, which is recognized in Act 16 as a legitimate qualifying condition.

Fortunately the authorities have since realized this is a classic mountain out of a mole hill scenario and have released the woman to the care of her husband. But the story isn’t over. She still has to come back to Pennsylvania for another court date, retain an attorney, and spend even more money than she’s already spent.

What should have been a simple fine turned into a nightmare for this woman and her family that cost a lot of money for them and for the tax payers of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

All because of a minor marijuana possession charge.

Does this sound like justice to you?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMarijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.
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Medical Cannabis Convention and Expo 2017 Wrap Up

The first ever Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Convention and Expo was held April 21 & 22 at David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The event was a tremendous success with over 2500 tickets sold.

Many visitors from Pennsylvania and across the nation gathered to explore the rapidly growing medical cannabis business landscape including growers and providers as well as support services representatives.

Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society was one of the sponsors and they had KDKA 1020 AM on hand for the first day of the conference with radio personality Mike Pintek doing his show live with special guest co-host, attorney and well-know cannabis activist Patrick K. Nightingale.

This was a great opportunity for those interested in becoming active in the medical cannabis business to meet with and learn from industry professionals.

Attorney Andrew Gross, of Nightingale, Gross & Patterson, LLC, said he is very pleased to be a part of this growing industry. “It’s very exciting to be on the ground floor in a business that can help so many people in need of medicine” said Mr. Gross, adding, “There are many legal and business aspects which need to be addressed by those intending to start a medical cannabis business. Our firm is providing those support services. Everything from entity formation and real estate acquisition/development to licensing and regulatory issues.”

Those who are seriously considering a medical cannabis venture can contact Andrew Gross at 412-553-0140 to schedule a consultation with Nightingale, Gross & Patterson, LLC.

We would like to thank everyone involved in this year’s conference and look forward to working with you in the future to bring this much needed medicine and economic development to Pennsylvania.

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Cannabis Convention and Expo 2017 Wrap Up
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The Applications Are In: Medicinal Marijuana in Pennsylvania is One Step Closer to Becoming a Reality

MarijuanaThe applications are filled out and submitted. The hoops are being jumped. The regulations in theory are becoming a reality.

Medicinal Marijuana is becoming a reality in Pennsylvania.

The growers and dispensaries are awaiting the results of which will be selected by the Department of Health to begin the task of bringing this valuable medicine to the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Children suffering from seizures will finally get the medicine they need. Cancer patients will finally have a natural alternative to pharmaceutical synthetic medication.

The ball is now in the State’s court. They have to stay on top of this.

For the most part, they have done a good job of identifying medical conditions that qualify under the admittedly narrow scope of the law, and it is truly a step forward for those in need of this valuable medicine.

One area where the State needs to be more proactive is certification of testing labs. At the time of this writing, there is yet to be any labs certified.

That said, there is so much more work to be done regarding full legalization.

Marijuana is the most harmless of all intoxicants, including cigarettes and alcohol. (Yes, cigarettes qualify as an intoxicant.)

Like anything that brings us pleasure– booze, weed, cupcakes– moderation is needed to maintain a healthy life balance and avoid the consequences of abuse.

Sitting on the couch all day smoking weed, watching TV and eating Doritos is not healthy, but is it somehow okay with beer instead of weed?

Is getting high and falling asleep watching Star Trek somehow worse than getting into a bar fight because you’ve had too much to drink and the Steelers lost?

The issue of abuse is no more tied to marijuana than it is to Hostess Twinkies.

It is time for we as a society step forward into the 21st Century and let go of the anti-marijuana propaganda of the past.

That is why Pittsburgh NORML is hosting a bus trip to Harrisburg April 19 to the Rally for legalization. Plus, on April 1, join Pittsburgh NORML for a LIVE Facebook broadcast at the Musicians Hotsheet Showcase at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls.

Let’s continue to work for total legalization in Pennsylvania.

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Patrick NightingaleThe Applications Are In: Medicinal Marijuana in Pennsylvania is One Step Closer to Becoming a Reality
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Beware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy

marijuana law reformAs Pennsylvania implements Act 16, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, there has necessarily been a lot of excitement, a lot of interest, and a lot of people trying to find ways to make money.  The grow and dispensary licenses have been referred to as “a license to print money.”  While that may or may not be true, there are clearly many opportunities to participate in the medical cannabis marketplace.

Unfortunately, we have seen some unscrupulous individuals trying to “cash in” on the hopes and ignorance of sick Pennsylvanians.  I have seen physicians advertising that they can make medical marijuana recommendations for Pennsylvania patients.  These physicians will charge a consultation fee and allegedly provide some type of assessment and recommendation.

This may sound good at first glance, but it is illegal under Act 16.  Act 16 provides specific rules for physicians who want to recommend medical cannabis for their patients.  First and foremost, a physician MUST register with the Department of Health.  A physician can only do that AFTER completing a 4 hour training course that has yet to be developed.  Until a physician completes the training course and registers with the Department he or she CANNOT make a medical cannabis recommendation.  Additionally, Act 16 specifically prohibits a physician from advertising that they can make a medical cannabis recommendation.

I know Pennsylvania patients are desperate to legally access Pennsylvania produced medical cannabis products.  Our patient population must know that these individuals are simply defrauding them.  If a potential patient wants to know whether they may qualify for a medical cannabis recommendation they need look no further than the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Website.

Similarly, there has been a significant amount of confusion and undue optimism about “legal” CBD oil readily available in Pennsylvania.

CBD is cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in both cannabis sativa and its derivatives (marijuana) and cannabis ruderalis (hemp).  Some hemp derived products, such as hemp clothing, hemp seeds and hemp milk, are legally sold in the United States.  The source material is grown overseas and the processed or refined products are sold in the US.

CBD oil extracted from hemp plants has been gaining in popularity and has been marketed as “legal in all 50 states.”  Unfortunately, it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA because it has trace amounts of THC (one could not possibly get “high”, but its enough to trigger the Schedule I classification).  Additionally, the CBD oil being sold is extracted from plants grown overseas.  Unlike Act 16 with strict testing protocols and pesticide restrictions a patient has absolutely no idea what conditions the hemp plants were grown in.  The source plants could have mold, pesticides, commercial fertilizers, etc.  Compare and contrast that with a CBD oil produced in Colorado such as Quicksilver which is produced under highly regulated conditions and subject to strict third party testing.

Pennsylvania patients are anxious to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program.  Unfortunately they must wait for the program to be fully implemented, for physicians to register with the program, and for licensed grows and dispensaries to offer high quality medicines, whether CBD or THC.

Until then, beware the Charlatans and Snake Oil.

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society

www.pamcs.org

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Patrick NightingaleBeware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy
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Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania: Beware the Scam Artists

MarijuanaPennsylvania’s Act 16 is probably the most rigidly regulated medical marijuana law in the nation. This is medicine, and the State is treating medicinal marijuana as they would any other pharmaceutical product.

Strict guidelines in both the production and sale of medicinal marijuana, combined with a very highly regulated license application process, make entering the medicinal marijuana business an extremely complicated endeavor for applicants.

Add to that questions regarding banking, insurance, transportation, security, employment requirements, federal law and so forth, and it’s no wonder people entering the field need professional consultation to make certain they are dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s correctly.

Unfortunately, this has led to more than a few scam artists taking advantage of the situation.

In one instance, we came across a doctor who claimed that for a fee, he could help patients obtain medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania. That is patently false.

Pennsylvania has required physicians to take a four hour course in order to prescribe medicinal marijuana. This course has yet to be finalized by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, so it is impossible for any physician to claim they can, at this time, make any recommendations for patients at all.

Medicinal Marijuana Consultants are also beginning to pop up, claiming to be able to help people during the application process to open a grow or a dispensary. Some of them are absolutely legitimate. They are staffed by lawyers, accounting and business professionals.

Others, not so much.

My legal assistant has fielded several calls from people fishing for information on how to handle the application process. In one case, the person calling never mentioned they were a consultant, and tried to get us to show them how to do it. In essence, they were pretending to be an applicant when they were actually claiming to be a consultant, charging people a fee and trying to get us to do the leg work for them.

We at PKN Law are available to answer your questions and offer competent guidance  to assist in this process. We are centered on four attorneys who have unimpeachable reputations and long-standing ties to the community. We have practical experience in the fields of criminal, business and real estate law– all integral parts of the application process.

So if you or someone you know is serious about entering the business of medicinal marijuana, we can certainly help sort out the complicated process of obtaining a license and setting up either a professional grow operation or a retail dispensary.

And as always, whenever you are considering contracting with a consultant, do some research first. The process is already expensive enough without throwing away money on someone who has to call us anyway.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana in Pennsylvania: Beware the Scam Artists
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President Trump and Legalization: What Now?

Since the election of President Trump, we have received many questions about how this could impact the legalization of Marijuana.

So far, nothing definitive has been said by this administration on the subject, and Trump himself has been ambiguous as to the future of legalization.

In the past, Trump has said that he feels it’s an issue that should be determined on a state by state basis. This would suggest his administration may continue the “look the other way” approach of the previous administration.

But what about our new Attorney General?

There is widespread concern regarding the nomination and expected confirmation of Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) for Attorney General, as many people feel his confirmation does not bode well for the legalization movement.

Sessions has repeatedly made it clear that he is against any attempts to reschedule marijuana, and has hinted he would go after anyone breaking federal law, which ultimately supersedes state law.

How this will impact states where there has been reform is difficult to say. Will Sessions shut down states with full legalization like Colorado? Will he go after medicinal states as well?

At this time, we just don’t know.

Legalized marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is currently a six billion dollar industry, and that doesn’t include California’s recent legalization of recreational use.

A majority of states already have some type of reform in place– medicinal, decriminalization and/or recreational use. Whether or not this administration is prepared to absorb the financial repercussions of prosecution remains to be seen.

Beyond that, the loss of tax revenue, and the overall economic impact of shutting down one of the fastest growing industries in the country, would give anyone pause.

And that is the one hopeful aspect of all this. President Trump is a businessman who ultimately recognizes a good deal when he sees one.

Let’s all hope “The Art of the Deal” is more than just a book title.

 

Click Here for a complete state by state listing for medical and recreational marijuana reform information.

 

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Patrick NightingalePresident Trump and Legalization: What Now?
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An Open Letter to the President: Is Medical Marijuana About to Get Trumped?

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestDear Mr. President,

As of the time of this writing, I have been unable to verify the validity of today’s ‘news’ that the DEA is adding CBDs (the medicinal extract of marijuana) to the Schedule 1 list.

No major news reporting agencies have made any mention of it at this time, and although many independent and alternative news websites are reporting the story, it’s unclear if this is accurate news or simply an internet hoax run amok.

What is clear is the Trump administration is not shaping up to be friendly towards legalization efforts.

You have the power to end this madness, Mr. President, and with all due respect, your legacy will not be tarnished in the least. In fact, I would posit that such a bold step forward in the name of compassion and common sense will in fact reflect most favorably on you for generations to come.

Marijuana has real medicinal value. There is no denying that medical professionals in ever increasing numbers, and over half the States, have, in multiple ways, made the call: Marijuana is medicine.

Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve had an uphill fight that has resulted in 17 “Qualifying Conditions” for the medically proven application of CBDs in treatment– including the treatment of seizures, which are very often associated with children.

Forgive me, Mr. President, for playing this card, but yes: It really is about the children this time.

The thing is, I know in my heart you are a thoughtful, intelligent human being. And again, with all due respect, we know you toked a few doobies back in the day. It’s cool with most of us. The vocal minority of the present will be drowned out in the ocean of time. Justice will prevail.

My employment of the words, “minority” and “justice” are quite intentional, Mr. President, as I have spent my entire professional career in the criminal justice system, working both sides of the aisle, and I can tell you this with certainty:

Prosecutions for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania can be devastating for an otherwise law abiding, tax paying citizen. It can literally ruin their life. And worst of all, it falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities– those who can least afford it.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, “Light up!”

Now there’s talk of making the medically approved, medicinally effective extract of this most harmless of intoxicants, the equivalent of Heroin in the eyes of the law???

Constitutionally speaking, this is truly madness.

I am currently challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 ruling in a case in the Court of Allegheny County. This is no “Lawyer stunt” Mr. President.

This is a case of someone resorting to making their own effective medicine for their own health benefits. This is medically documented and would be a “Qualifying Condition”, if the State of Pennsylvania moved faster.

And this is but one of thousands of otherwise ordinary citizens who face prosecution for doing something they could do in a majority of the United States, legally. If that’s not a violation of “equal protection under the law”, I don’t know what is.

The Schedule 1 status of marijuana is the roadblock in all this. The DEA has too much motivated self-interest to judiciously wield this kind of constitutional authority, and is, in effect, circumventing the States, the Constitution and the will of the people.

The experiment with legalization in Colorado has proven wildly successful, with literally none of the predicted negatives put forth by it’s opponents.

Mr. President, the time is now.

Add actual healing to your legacy. Add the compassion that I believe is in you to your legacy. Stand up for the truth and lead us down a path of justice for those who need medicine and compassion, not vilification and jail.

Please! Remove Marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.

Most respectfully yours,

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.

 

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Patrick NightingaleAn Open Letter to the President: Is Medical Marijuana About to Get Trumped?
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Motion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented

marijuana law reformToday, I presented a Motion in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to have PA’s Schedule I classification of cannabis deemed unconstitutional in light of PA’s medical cannabis law.

This is a clear conflict between the Constitution and State — as well as Federal– law.

The medical efficacy of marijuana has been established in Pennsylvania with the passage of our Medicinal Marijuana legislation, hence the Schedule 1 classification is in direct conflict. We are contending that this is a violation of citizens constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

A major element of the Schedule 1 classification is that in order to be so classified, a drug has no medicinal value at all.

Pennsylvania’s new Medicinal Marijuana legislation flies in the face of Schedule 1, as it lists seventeen qualifying medical conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment option.

I will be briefing the issue to the Court. If anyone is interested in submitting an Amicus — attorneys, advocacy groups, etc.– please feel free to message me at pknlaw@mac.com.

I would also like to express gratitude to Allegheny County Judge Borkowski for taking this issue seriously and allowing this Motion to be read into the record.

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Patrick NightingaleMotion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented
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