Medical marijuana advocates arrive at Pittsburgh conference
The Fay-Penn Economic Development Council’s executive director dropped by the medical marijuana conference in Downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to seek out potential development opportunities.
“The medical cannabis industry is projected to create between 300,000 to 400,000 jobs through 2020,” said Robert Shark. “That’s more than projected for the entire manufacturing industry.”
The excitement about the industry’s potential was apparent Thursday at the World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo convention, held for the second consecutive year at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. More than 3,000 people have registered to attend the second-year even, sponsored by Compassionate Certification Centers, which concludes Saturday.
In the exhibit area, 200 vendors from around the country were offering everything from staffing services for people interested in finding a job in the field, to companies that could help identify the sex of plant, glass blowers, pipe and bong venders, app developers, attorneys and small businesses.
“The main difference from last year is that this is a functional business and is generating excitement,” said Patrick Nightingale, a Pittsburgh attorney who serves as executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.
Aimee Burke of Phylos Certified Bioscience of Portland, Ore., offered tests that help growers identify the sex of a plant. Four tests costs around $50. Prices increased from there.
“We’re in the cannabis genomics business,” explained Burke, adding that female marijuana plants can be identified seven days after germination.
The Sage Pharmacy is a start-up business in Aspinwall that plans to offer cannabidiol, or CBD products when it opens later this year. CBD is a cannabis compound that does not make people feel stoned. Products infused with CBD can help people who want relief from inflammation, seizures, spasms, anxiety and psychosis. Sage’s products will be available in oils, tinctures and body lotions.
“It’s really good for joint pain,” said Akeela Seamon of Sage.
Devin Bridgeman of Allentown said he is developing an app called PACC-Community that he envisions as the go-to resource for anything cannabis in the state. The app will be free to patients.
Michelle Blank, a human resources professional, started the Mary Jane Agency of Sandusky, Ohio to help people find employment in the industry.
Blank said her placements – so far – have been in Ohio.
“I have been placing people mostly in managerial positions,” Blank said. “They have been getting salaries in the six figures.
Medical cannabis is now legal in 29 states and is predicted to become a multibillion-dollar industry. Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania medical marijuana advisory board voted to allow dried leaf marijuana into the market place.
Patients in Pennsylvania can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if they have one of 17 medical conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease. To date, roughly 11,000 cards have been issued.
On Friday, the convention will have a number of educational courses including updates on the law, tax implications, how to talk with children about cannabis, as well as the continuing battle between state and federal jurisdictions.
The convention wraps up Saturday with the job potential of the industry and the future of marijuana in the health care industry.
Last month, the state Health Department said it will add 13 new medical marijuana growers and 23 new dispensaries as the program swells to more than 25,000 resident registrants. When the second phase of the program is completed – as possibly as soon as 12 months – the state will have 50 marijuana dispensaries and 25 state-approved marijuana growers. Each dispensary could have three locations, bringing the total to as many as 150 in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016. Dispensaries opened in February.
Statewide, medical marijuana is legal in pills, oils, tinctures, concentrates for vaping or ointments. A state medical marijuana advisory board voted Monday to recommend allowing dried leaf marijuana into the market.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine must decide whether to accept the recommendation for it to become statewide policy.
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected], 412-871-2346 or via Twitter @41Suzanne.