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PA Dispensaries Running Out Of Medical Marijuana, Shortage Expected To Be Temporary

Keith Srakocic
People wait outside the CY+ medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pa.

After less than a month of medical marijuana being sold in Pennsylvania dispensaries are running out of product.

“I would almost call it like a ‘growing pain,'” said Rocco Levine, the general manager of Solevo Wellness in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh’s sole dispensary, which sold the last of its marijuana over the weekend.

“I wish we had a year or two of actual processes in place for all of this so we could be on top of it the day it came out," he said. "But with the little amount of time and the ability for all these companies to do what they do, I can’t even believe that we’re this far this fast.”

The dispensaries contacted all agree the shortage is temporary. Though there are 12 producers permitted to grow marijuana in the state, currently only one, Cresco Yeltrah in Brookville, is supplying product.

“If [the medical marijuana is] not there right now, it should be next week,” said April Hutcheson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “What we encourage patients to do is to call that dispensary to see where they’re at."

The state reports21,000 Pennsylvania residents have registered for medical marijuana cards, more than 2,200 have received the product. Of the 12 marijuana dispensaries approved to open six are in operation. 

Cresco Yeltrah’s own dispensary in Bulter, CY+, still has product on its shelves. Co-founder Trent Hartley said he was surprised by the initial interest from patients, but more product will be sent out soon.

"It's a long process to grow the plants," he said. "We're at the state where basically we'll start taking down plants every two weeks, so we should be consistent with product by the end of this month."

Hartley said Cresco Yeltrah harvests are getting larger and that eventually a greater variety of strains will be offered.

The product line will also be more diverse. In addition to butters, oils and vaping pens, people will be able to buy patches, pills and capsules. It's illegal to sell edibles or cannabis in the plant form. 

Several dispensaries said they expect that two or possibly three additional grower processors will be coming online by the end of March. But some people may not be willing to wait.

"Time for me to get in my RV and go to Nevada," wrote one person on the Facebook page of TerraVida Holistic Centers, a Sellersville dispensary that also ran out of marijuana this weekend. "I'm running out of my medicine."

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.