Medical Cannabis in Pa.

Still confused about what Pittsburgh’s medical marijuana dispensaries will do? You’re not alone.

That’s why Councilman Corey O’Connor’s office is holding a hearing in July.

Sarah Anne Hughes

Are you still confused about how Pittsburgh’s medical marijuana dispensaries will operate and what they will actually do? You’re not alone.

Pittsburgh City Council will host a post-agenda hearing in July on medical marijuana at the request of Councilman Corey O’Connor, whose district is the site of a proposed dispensary. O’Connor’s chief of staff, Curt Conrad, said the hearing will focus on the medical aspect of the forthcoming program, which is expected to launch in earnest early next year.

“People are still pretty confused,” he said.

Conrad said O’Connor’s office has invited medical experts to speak at the hearing, as well as state Sen. Daylin Leach, the Democrat who helped shepherd the bill through the legislature.

The meeting is set to take place at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13. If the state sticks to its end-of-June timeline, that means those who attend should know which groups have been awarded permits to open dispensaries and grower/processor facilities in Pennsylvania. Conrad said the office will also extend an invitation to those groups.

The Incline has identified five proposed dispensaries within city limits, from the North Side to Lawrenceville. It’s highly likely there are additional applicants seeking to open facilities in Pittsburgh. The state has released information about 258 of the applicants, including their business name and region.

Conrad said O’Connor’s office has encountered people who think Pennsylvania’s scheme will be similar to California’s, which was seen as “a wink and a nod” toward recreational pot.

But lawmakers say that won’t be the case in Pennsvylania. During the first phase of rollout, the Pa. Department of Health will issue up to 12 permits for grower/processors and up to 27 permits for dispensaries statewide. At most, that means there will be 150 dispensaries in Pennsylvania divided among six regions, which can only host a set number of facilities. People with just 17 conditions, including “severe chronic or intractable pain,” will be eligible.

Dispensary applicants who’ve previously spoken to The Incline emphasized the importance of having marijuana available as a treatment option for people who are seriously ill. Dr. Shannon Thieroff, who spoke to The Incline in March, said she treats people with conditions like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and ALS who get no relief from conventional treatment.

“These are people that are just trying to literally stay alive,” Thieroff said, and “enjoy what period of time they have left, have good quality of life, or just be able to function.”