That Dope Column: A new column from the Pittsburgh Current covering marijuana in Pennsylvania

By August 7, 2018 2 Comments

My name is Lady Jane and I am a pothead.

As you can probably surmise, my real name isn’t actually Lady Jane. But, considering the semi-legal status of marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania … you can understand my desire for a nom de plume. I’ve been smoking weed regularly for nearly a decade now (with one year living in Amsterdam) and while I guess that technically makes me a stoner, I consider myself somewhat of an expert stoner.

For the past forever-ago weed has been considered a taboo topic by mainstream culture. But the times they are a-changin’ faster than ever before. As of today nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use, and 30 states have legalized medical marijuana use, including Pennsylvania. So since this is our first time together let’s review the state of marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania.

In 2016 the PA House legalized the medicinal use of pot, but that doesn’t mean you can stroll into any doctor’s office and expect them to write that golden ‘script anytime soon. First things first, you have to register with the PA Department of Health as a patient. Then you have to find a physician who is registered with the state and has completed the required four-hour training course. With a growing list of state-approved physicians on the pa.gov website, it’s easy to find a doctor who can write a moderately legible weed prescription  if you suffer from one of the 21 serious medical conditions deemed weed-worthy.

While this isn’t great news for non-medical stoners, the list is considered somewhat progressive for including conditions like PTSD, Autism, and Opioid Use Disorder. Whether you partake or not, this is a huge step in the right direction for patients’ rights. However, the list does not include disorders like chronic anxiety, depression, insomnia, and anorexia/bulimia. It’s a shame to exclude common mental health disorders like these simply because they are often easier to manage after a nice, hot cup of  pot tea.

Once you have your hand-dandy prescription, the third step is to go back to the PA Department of Health website and pay the $50 fee to receive your medical marijuana ID card. This brings us to the fourth and final step of the process, which is hands down the most fun part: going to a dispensary. Currently, your local dispensaries will only be able to sell you CBD oils, pills, liquids, and gels. This caused some Real Housewives-esque drama in the cannabis community since the decision to not legalize all forms of THC/CBD use was, quite frankly, kinda dumb. In essence, they legalized weed without actually legalizing weed. Eventually, the state’s Marijuana Advisory Board wised up and this past February and upgraded the legislation to allow for dry leaf weed to be vaporized, not smoked. So you can vape dry leaf weed, but you can’t roll up a joint. Whatever man, I haven’t vaped dry weed since two-thousand-andl-ate. Lady Jane’s inside sources say that  bud leaf intended for “vaping” will finally be available in Pittsburgh dispensaries sometime this September. This is excellent news for licensed weed smokers, since marijuana in flower form requires less processing, making it cheaper than concentrated oils, creams, etc.

But, like, what about the rest of the non-card carrying midnight tokers? Yinzers are still passing the dutchie under the table on the sly. Within the city limits of Pittsburgh, weed has been decriminalized since April 2016. In theory, that means if you don’t have a medical marijuana ID card you won’t get arrested if busted for possession of fewer than 30 grams. However a study of arrests by Chris Goldstein of pot-advocacy group Philly NORML, shows that Pittsburgh Police have actually made significantly more arrests for simple possession in 2017 than they did un 2016. When it’s working properly, decriminalization should mean a citation and a fine

On the bright side, the chances of recreational weed becoming legal in PA are looking up. In fact, PA State Representative Jake Wheatley currently has pending legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use. Wheatley argues that the economic and social impact of legal weed is too significant to ignore. The estimated fiscal benefits could bring a $580 million surplus to Pennsylvania. But I’m still going to approach this with cautious optimism. While some Pennsylvania lawmakers appear to be on the right path to statewide legalization, the vast majority of Pittsburgh potheads will have to continue with our shady “u around?” text messages to our friends with that West Coast kush hookup.

This Dope Column will run twice monthly in the Pittsburgh Current. For more marijuana coverage check out This Dope blog on pittsburghcurrent.com. Wanna know more about getting high and stuff? Have questions about weed strains? Need pot advice? Have suggestions? Tweet your thoughts to @CurrentLadyJane or email: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.


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