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Why no September update on Pa. medical marijuana progress?

Observers aren't concerned with the monthly skip

September passed with no word from the state on its progress writing regulations for the commonwealth’s first medical marijuana program, but industry leaders aren’t alarmed by the silence.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, which has been tasked with creating the state’s medical marijuana program, has sent out some form of public update each month since medical marijuana became legal in May. It did not offer an update in September.

But that is because the agency didn’t have anything new to report, according to department spokesperson April Hutcheson.

The next medical marijuana press conference is slated for mid-October, Hutcheson said, but she did not know the subject matter.

Leaders in the cannabis industry are not concerned that the agency’s progress could be slowing, according to Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, a nonprofit focused on education and industry networking.

“Everything that we have seen from the department tells us that they’re moving forward in good faith as quickly as they can,” Nightingale said.

The health department also is being careful not to rush regulations, because it wants to “get it right,” Dan Clearfield, an attorney in the Harrisburg office of Philadelphia-based law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC and a member of the firm’s regulated substance practice group, said in an email.

The department previously stated that over the next several months it planned to roll out one section of regulations per month to meet a November deadline. The department has six months from May to complete regulations.

In May the department formed the Bureau of Medical Marijuana. In June it granted children access to medical marijuana through a Safe Harbor Provision. In July the department formed a medical marijuana working group of physicians from around the state.

August was a big month: the department unveiled temporary regulations for growers and processors.

The department also appointed a medical marijuana program director in August.

Now, the medical marijuana industry is waiting to see regulations pertaining to dispensaries, caregivers, patients and physicians.

Lenay Ruhl

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