As more medical marijuana dispensaries open, rural counties still left out – New Castle News

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John Collins, the director of the state Office of Medical Marijuana, on Tuesday called on the state’s dispensary operators to open locations in rural areas where there are thousands of medical marijuana patients and no nearby dispensaries.

Collins said that there are 10 counties — Armstrong, Bedford, Bradford, Carbon, Indiana, Pike, Potter, Tioga, Venango and Wayne — without any dispensaries that are each home to more than 2,000 residents who are medical marijuana patients.

Lawrence County has two dispensaries — Ayr Wellness on Sampson Street and Rise Dispensaries in Union Township.

In each of these underserved counties, patients must drive at least half an hour and in some cases, patients may be driving as much as two hours to the nearest medical marijuana dispensaries, Collins said at the quarterly meeting of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, passed in 2016 allows people with 23 serious medical conditions to get marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries. There are 343,634 active patients using the medical marijuana program, Collins said.

The medical marijuana advisory board in 2019 added anxiety and Tourette’s Syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions. It hasn’t added any new conditions since then. The board declined to add insomnia as a qualifying condition at its November 2020 meeting. The board on Tuesday postponed consideration of a move to add traumatic brain injuries as a qualifying condition.

The Department of Health is encouraging dispensaries to locate in these underserved counties, Collins said, adding that the state was releasing the data on the number of patients in these areas to demonstrate that there would be customers if dispensaries opened in these locations.

“We have entities that can grow into these counties,” he said.

There are 119 dispensaries open in

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