PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With all the hype over medical marijuana, you’d think it’d be easy for the medically eligible to get.
Not so, members of Pittsburgh city council were told on Thursday.
“We’re sort of like a pharmacy, but we’re a little bit different,” said Dr. Robert Capretto, chair of Keystone Relief Center.
Keystone Relief Center was one of five dispensaries in Southwestern Pennsylvania that won a license to build a medical marijuana dispensary in the region. Their first dispensary will be in Squirrel Hill.
Capretto joined a panel of experts to discuss implementing the new law in Pittsburgh.
PA Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, who co-authored the bill, said the first challenge is getting enough doctors certified to recommend medical marijuana.
“Patients need to be able to access doctors,” Leach told council members.
“In order for a doctor to make a recommendation to the Department of Health to get you a card, they have to be certified. They have to take a 4-hour course.”
And forget the word “prescription.”
Dr. Bryan Doner said the doc’s recommendation, which may include dosage and types of medical cannabis, leads to a state medical marijuana card.
“Then from there a patient would go to a dispensary, and at the dispensary that’s where they are going to have the product,” said Doner.
“They’re going to have their own medical staff as well who can also help you outline and guide your treatment plan and that’s where you would pick up the actual product.”
But because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, all transactions must be in cash — no credit or debit cards.
“We’re working very hard to try to find a way to eliminate the cash because who the heck wants to have all that cash, although we use that to pay the growers and then we pay our people,” said Capretto.
Some local residents are concerned all that cash could attract criminals, but Councilman Corey O’Connor, who called the hearing, is not worried.
Besides guards, gates, and guards at dispensaries, said O’Connor, “The cash on hand is going to be in a vault, and it will be delivered by armed guards almost every day.”