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Top Pennsylvania Cannabis Official Sounds Alarm On Steep Prices For Medical Pot

John Collins will soon be retiring from his position as director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Medical Marijuana. But before he goes, Collins is issuing a warning over the exorbitant prices that the state’s medical cannabis patients must shoulder.

Collins lamented a state trend of patients paying more for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania during Wednesday’s online meeting.

Based on The Philadelphia Inquirer, the “average wholesale price for a gram of medical cannabis leaf in Pennsylvania has fallen 36% since the beginning of 2020,” but Collins said that the “the average retail price that patients pay is down only 14% over the same period.”

“I’m clearly calling out today, secretary, a red flag that needs to be investigated,” Collins told Pennsylvania Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter during the meeting, as quoted by local news outlet WSKG.

The Inquirer has more specifics on the price changes, reporting that the “average wholesale price of a gram of weed fell to $6.56 in February from $10.19 at the beginning of 2020,” but at retail “the average price fell to $13.40 per gram from $15.67 per gram.”

Pennsylvania has long had some of the nation’s highest prices for medical cannabis, according to the Inquirer.

“There is a significant opportunity to pass along savings to patients. Speaking for them, they should demand this be passed to them,” said Collins, as quoted by New Castle News.

But as Collins said Wednesday, the state’s hands are pretty much tied.

WSKG reported that Collins says regulators in the state “have few options because of how the rules were written in Pennsylvania.”

“We can’t particularly force a price point,” Collins said, according to The Inquirer. “Dispensaries take title to the product and have the right to price it. What we can do to encourage more competition is to put a spotlight on it like we’re doing today.”

Options such as price caps may not alleviate the problem, according to Collins, who is retiring at month’s end.

“We’re seeing the evidence of a competitive market, but this is again illustrating a bit of a holdback on passing those savings along to patients,” Collins said, as quoted by WSKG.

But some industry officials pushed back on Collins’ assertions.

Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, a trade group representing medical cannabis permit holders in the state, said that Collins’ comments on Wednesday “fail to recognize the regulatory reality of operating in Pennsylvania,” as quoted by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

For more information, please visit: The Inquirer, Buettner “blamed Pennsylvania’s relatively high prices on duplicative product testing requirements, the inability of Pennsylvania operations to remediate contaminated cannabis into a something else they can sell and other factors.”

Since 2016, when medical marijuana was legalized, Pennsylvania legislators and policymakers have made changes to the law.

Two members of Pennsylvania’s state House presented legislation in September to protect patients who use medical marijuana from DUI penalties.

“I believe that people with a medical need for cannabis, who have acted courageously to seek help for their medical condition and have been granted use of medical cannabis, should be protected from DUI penalties for their legal medical cannabis use,” said Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb, one of the bill’s sponsors. “I know I’m not the only lawmaker in the General Assembly who has been contacted by constituents concerned that their responsible use of medical cannabis may expose them to targeting by law enforcement when they drive.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently banned hundreds of cannabis-related products. It claimed that they contained ingredients that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.