All posts tagged: Patrick K. Nightingale

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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Jeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a giant leap backwards in time by issuing a memo instructing Federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in drug related crimes, reversing the policies of his predecessor, Eric Holder.

Holder took a more progressive and humane approach, especially concerning non-violent and low-level offenders. It was also a more pragmatic and fiscally responsible approach aimed at correcting over 40 years of damage done by the harsh policies of the past and the failed War on Drugs.

If Mr. Sessions wants to address the spike in opiate use, he needs to look at the alarming statistics showing the rise in heroin addiction is increasingly the result of using legally obtained prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and other synthetic pharmaceutical products designed to mimic the effects of morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Maybe it’s time the Justice Department investigates Big Pharma.

Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. — Article III, Section II, United States Constitution

Most people get their knowledge of the judicial system from TV shows like “Law and Order”, which bear little resemblance to real life. The ‘justice’ part is much easier to see when it’s laid out for you in a snazzy hour long drama. It’s a much more involved process for a jury in real life to reach a verdict. And it’s expensive. A jury trial can set the taxpayers back quite a bit, and the time involved can really back up an already overloaded justice system.

The ability of prosecutors to hold incredibly harsh sentences over the heads of the accused goes a long way to alleviating the expense of jury trials. It is a threat, not unlike holding a gun to someone’s head: Plead or else.

The above cited Section of the Constitution is a sham. An estimated ninety-seven percent of people in Federal prisons never had a trial by a jury of their peers.

This has increasingly reduced the role of a Criminal Defense Attorney from defender seeking justice and arguing his client’s case before a jury, to negotiator in a hostage crisis, trying to get the best deal possible for their client. We are literally forced to make our case to the Prosecution without ever going before a Judge and Jury. The deck is already stacked in favor of the Prosecution, and what Sessions is doing will simply make it worse and more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences–  rules that limit a Judge’s discretion.

And therein lies another slap in the face for justice: Intentionally limiting the role of Judges in the judicial process.

Having had the privilege of appearing before many Judges over the years, I can tell you they are completely competent to render a just decision without handcuffing them to arbitrary rules, doled out and overseen by a small group of people in Washington, DC., who are completely removed from, and literally oblivious to, the facts and circumstances of any individual case.

Mandatory Minimums essentially say the Federal Government has no faith in the ability of Judges to render just decisions. But that’s what Mr. Sessions wants.

Everyone in the Justice System should be concerned that Mr. Sessions is taking us backwards by instituting policies and guidelines that have proven to be a failure, going back to Prohibition.

Add the reality of a corporate controlled, for-profit prison system, and we have a recipe for disaster.

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Patrick NightingaleJeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice
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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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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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Police Encounters Are Not A Courtroom– Even When You’re A Pittsburgh Steeler

There is a show on Netflix, “House of Cards”.  It follows a congressman and his wife on their rise to power and the Presidency.

One of the characters, Remy Danton,  is African American and the Presidents Chief of Staff.  There is a scene where he gets pulled over by the DC police for speeding, and he doesn’t have his wallet, which is where his license, registration and insurance card are.  At this point, the police officer is OBLIGATED to investigate further and search the subject for weapons.

No identification, no proof the car is his– he could claim he was the Pope and it wouldn’t matter.  This is standard procedure and within the confines of the law.

Operating a motor vehicle without a license is illegal, and it’s perfectly reasonable for the officer to follow established procedure to investigate further.

As much as I hate to say it, this is one of those times when, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be worried or react with undue emotionalism.

It is ALWAYS desirable from a legal view to cooperate with police during a traffic stop, but in the scene, Danton overreacts and in the process, elevates the nature of the encounter, which in turn escalates the police response.

“I have a right to know why you pulled me over!” he shouts while disobeying the order to keep his hands on the car in plain sight.

This type of adversarial behavior constitutes a legitimate safety concern for the police.

In this instance, the responding officer is also African American, so when Danton makes a snide remark about impressing his fellow white officers, it just adds fuel to the fire.

Danton ends up in cuffs in the back of a patrol car, until a Lieutenant shows up and having ascertained Danton’s identity,  apologizes for the inconvenience and takes off the cuffs.

There is an implication in the way the scene is presented that since Danton is a well known political figure, the policeman’s response must be because he is African American, but this is simply not the case when applied to real life.  The fact is, Danton overplayed his hand. He could claim to be anyone, but the police don’t know that.

Under these circumstances, anyone without a license, registration, etc., regardless of race or status, would be subject to standard police procedure if pulled over.   The police had probable cause and followed the rules.

Which brings us to Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Coach, Joey Porter.

Porter was arrested Sunday night at a nightclub, and although we don’t know all the details, we do know that the police were called after Porter’s behavior towards the officer working security at the club became threatening.   It’s been reported that Porter may have put his hands on the officer– a major no no.  NEVER initiate any kind of physical contact with the police, especially when you’re a physically imposing presence like, say, a former NFL linebacker.

Don’t say things like, “I know my rights” or “Don’t you know who I am?”

If you are pulled over or otherwise have a police encounter, remain calm and speak in even, measured tones.  Keep your hands in plain sight and make no sudden movements.

If you have to reach into your jacket for your wallet, or the glove compartment for paperwork, ask the officer first.  “Officer, my wallet is in my jacket, is it okay for me to get it?”

Don’t tell them how to do their job.  No one likes that.  Cooperate with their instructions.  YOU know you don’t have a gun in your jacket, but they don’t.

If they ask you to get out of the car, move slowly and deliberately.  When they say, “Place your hands on the car and spread your legs” so they can search you, cooperate.  Even if the search turns out to be something that can later be suppressed in court, this is not a courtroom.

Police have a very dangerous job where any encounter can, in the blink of an eye, go from routine traffic stop to life threatening situation.  Of course they are going to be hyper-sensitive to anything suspicious, or worse, aggressive behavior.

Conversely, someone who is being stopped by the police– even if they have nothing to hide– is going to be nervous and anxious.  This can be a volatile mix that often results in misunderstanding that can escalate the situation far beyond the original offense.

The worst thing anyone can do in a police encounter is to become combative and or verbally abusive when addressing the police.

Even if they’re a Pittsburgh Steeler.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingalePolice Encounters Are Not A Courtroom– Even When You’re A Pittsburgh Steeler
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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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The Trials and Tribulations of a Legal Assistant.

Pennsylvania criminal justiceHello.

I am the legal assistant at PKN Law.

Translation: I’m a glorified gopher with some limited knowledge of the law who acts as a cushion between the ,legal system and real people, but I am not a Lawyer.

The legal assistant is there to take up the slack, and fill in the gaps, so the Lawyers can do their job.

Lawyers are like surgeons. They won’t raise expectations or coddle you. They won’t commit to an answer they are not 100% certain of, and that is rare.

(If your attorney says they are 100% certain, then for Gods sake, listen to them!)

Lawyers are there to deal with a legal system that is incredibly complex and represent their clients in such a way as to produce the best possible outcome. Period.

Having spent over a year as the legal assistant at PKN Law, I can honestly say they actually care about clients. The fact that I’m there proves it.

It is important to keep an open line of communications, and that is where I come in. I bridge that gap. It’s not easy, but I am proud to do it, because I recognize the importance of what we do as a team. We are the last stand between justice and injustice. We are the defense, relied on by people in very serious trouble.

I often have to communicate with family members of clients. They can be emotional, to say the least. They are scared. They are looking for reassurance that their loved one is going to be okay.

I wish I could tell everyone that, but I can’t.

What I can promise is, PKN Law will explore and utilize every possible way to defend their  clients in order to produce an overall defense strategy that results in the best possible outcome.

This is an unsolicited testimonial. No one asked me to write this.

The truth is, I had a rough week, and it occurred to me that we actually care about our clients, which is why I had a rough week.  We are fighting every single day, even though it seems like things are moving slow. The system is slow. It is frustrating, to say the least.

I’m here to make sure the Lawyers can do their job while maintaining communications with not just those we represent (our legal obligation), but also their family members (our commitment to service), who have very real concerns for the welfare of our  respective clients.

PKN Law is committed to providing the best legal defense and best service to every single client, every day. We’ll fight through the paperwork and legal jargon to provide the best defense possible.

I know because I’m in the trenches every day. I wish it was all smooth sailing, but it’s not, and I can promise you that we will be there to weather it all with our clients. That’s what I do.

Legal Assistant, PKN Law.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Trials and Tribulations of a Legal Assistant.
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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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Medicinal Marijuana: A Status Update

marijuana law reformThe initial excitement expressed over the passage of Pennsylvania’s medicinal marijuana legislation has led to some fallacies regarding how the law works.

It has also opened the doors to various scams, intended to capitalize on that initial excitement.

Let me be absolutely clear on this first point: Marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Until Act 16 is fully implemented merely having a qualifying medical condition under the new law won’t prevent anyone from being arrested and prosecuted for possessing marijuana.

Which brings up my next point. Smoking marijuana is not covered under the new medicinal law, which applies only to medically approved delivery methods such as oils, topical, salves and pill form.  The Department of Health MAY add dry herb as a permissible “medical marijuana product” in 2018, but smoking will remain prohibited as a delivery method.

It is medicine, and is being treated under the law with the same medical and pharmaceutical oversight as any medicine introduced to the marketplace.

Doctors are being trained and certified to recommend medicinal marijuana under very strict guidelines, none of which relate to recreational use.

Only a physician who has been trained and is certified to practice medicine in Pennsylvania will be allowed to make a recommendation.  Prior to considering a medical marijuana recommendation, however, the physician must complete a 4 hour training course and must register with the Department of Health.  A physician recommending medical cannabis may not have a financial interest in a licensed medical cannabis facility such as a grow or a dispensary.

Growing marijuana is still illegal. Claiming a grow operation is for medicinal use is not a defense. Medicinal growers will have to be licensed and regulated by the commonwealth. The process of obtaining a growers license is very strict and very costly.  The application process alone may cost the license winner millions before a single seed is planted.

Finally, a physician MUST have a bona fide physician patient relationship with the patient.

In order to get a recommendation, patients must have a physician patient relationship with their recommending treatment provider.  Because the Department of Health has not yet certified the training requirements for physicians no PA physician can yet make a medical cannabis recommendation to their adult patient.   Any “physician” who offers to do so at present– especially for a fee– is breaking the law.

For more information on medicinal marijuana, we suggest contacting a legitimate organization such as the Pennsylvania Medicinal Cannabis Society with questions regarding prescribing and producing medicinal marijuana.
Visit http://www.pamcs.org for more information.
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Patrick NightingaleMedicinal Marijuana: A Status Update
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