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Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program Data Brief Released by Drexel-led State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup

January 9, 2023

The impact of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana (PAMMJ) program as it relates to access, use, arrests, and perceptions of cannabis was detailed in data brief released on January 2023 by the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW), which is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Drs. Janna Ataiants and Katya Fedorova, senior scientists based at Drexel’s Medical Cannabis Research Center, were led authors of the SEOW report.

The brief reported that despite attitudes of Pennsylvanian’s becoming more accepting of cannabis, adolescent use (under the age of 18) has remained relatively stable with a small decrease in 2022. This decrease and overall stability in teen use seems to follow a similar pattern across the country that shows legalization does not increase underage consumption. An interesting data point from the report shows that adolescents reported that cannabis is becoming more difficult to obtain under medical legalization in PA.

Despite the legalization of medical cannabis and decriminalization of possession in counties and municipalities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, arrest rate disparities remain as Black Pennsylvanians are 4.7 times more likely than White Pennsylvanians to be arrested for cannabis, according to the brief. While overall arrests decreased, the significant disparities in arrest rates remain. Though the disparities have decreased slightly after the legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalization of possession in select counties and municipalities across the commonwealth.

The SEOW data brief showed that as more medical cannabis dispensaries opened across state the price of medical cannabis decreased resulting in a $2.27 per gram decline of dry cannabis leaf between January 2020 and February 2022. The price of medical cannabis has also figured prominently into the conversation surrounding the legalization of medical cannabis as a presentation by former PAMMJ Director John Collins on the subject grabbed headlines.

The data brief does acknowledge several limitations such as not having pre-and post-legalization data to help draw definitive statistical conclusions about effects of medical marijuana legalization in the state. Access to medical marijuana can vary by patient demographics which was not examined in the present report. The reliability of marijuana price data based on consumer reports may be limited. Nevertheless, this brief provides a useful summary of observed trends, portraying a complex picture of increased access to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, the steady rates of youth use, fluctuations in approving youth attitudes toward use, as well as continuing racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.

Click here to download the full report.