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Trib editorial: Add dried leaf to Pa.'s legal medical marijuana for better supply, demand, cost

| Sunday, April 15, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
A leaf of marijuana
Associated Press
A leaf of marijuana

By starting a second round of grower/processor and dispensary permitting, Pennsylvania is already taking sensible steps that should help address the supply-demand imbalance seen in February as the state's first dispensaries opened and eager patients quickly emptied shelves of available products. Now, Dr. Rachel Levine, state Health secretary, should take another step of that sort — by adding dried marijuana leaf to the legal medical mix.

A unanimous April 9 vote (with one abstention) by a state advisory board she chairs recommends doing so. She has up to a year to make the final decision, but the sooner she adds dried leaf to dispensary shelves, the better — for patients, grower/processors, dispensaries and the program as a whole.

Dried leaf requires less post-harvest processing, so it should reach patients more quickly than the pills, oils, tinctures, ointments and vaping concentrates already on dispensary shelves, expanding overall supply. Less processing also means dried leaf should be more affordable for patients, who pay out of pocket because medical marijuana isn't covered by health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. That should expand demand, helping the program deliver medical marijuana's benefits to more Pennsylvanians.

Smoking dried-leaf medical marijuana would remain illegal, but vaping it would be fine for medical marijuana patients under existing state law. If Pennsylvania's medical marijuana market is to flourish, dried leaf rightfully should be part of the mix.

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