Erik Asher of Pittsburgh describes how he produces rosin from marijuana extracts. (Charlotte Hopkins photo/special to Tube City Almanac)
* Correction, Not Perfection: This story was corrected after publication. -JT
Making marijuana legal for medicinal purposes has been a long battle ever since the U.S. Congress first made its use or possession illegal in 1937.
It was only three years ago that Pennsylvania reversed the state's policy on medicinal marijuana and made it legal. On Sunday, McKeesport-based PurePenn and other vendors held a Medicinal Marijuana Health Fair at the Palisades.
At one table, Erik Asher of Pittsburgh showed event-goers how rosin, a concentrated extract of the marijuana plant, is made using heat and high pressure.
The rosin is used in the same way as other forms of cannabis concentrates, he said, including through vaping. “It can be used in edibles and dissolved into alcohol for use as a tincture,” Asher said.
Asher, who calls himself an "educator and ambassador," said he doesn't sell the rosin he makes, but he does provide education to people who have a medical marijuana card.
Twenty-five companies* are licensed in Pennsylvania to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. One of the first 12 companies to be licensed and begin production was PurePenn, based at the RIDC Industrial Center of McKeesport.
PurePenn has licensed technology from Moxie, a medical cannabis company in Nevada. PurePenn's products include extracts in a variety of forms, including capsules and ointments and inhaled products. The company now has more than 400 varieties, a spokesperson said, and will work with patients to assist them in finding what product is right for them, depending on their ailments.
Medical marijuana may only be legally purchased from a licensed dispensary. One of them is Greenleaf Compassion, located at 330 East Eighth Ave. in Homestead, which also had a table at Sunday's event.
Their products include chocolates, bath bombs and salves used for skin afflictions and anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety conditions, Alyssa Costello of Greenleaf said. They also have a salve that helps with bruising, nerve pain, pulled muscles, sprains, swelling and sore muscles.
Greenleaf Compassion is also a licensed clinic that can evaluate patients and determine if they qualify and are eligible to be treated with medical marijuana.*
From Compassionate Certification Centers were Blaise Panizzi, Aimee Faiella, and Dr. Brad Buege, while representing The Healing Center were Darnell Williams, Erik Asher and Michael Butler. (Charlotte Hopkins photo/special to Tube City Almanac)
Companies working in collaboration with PurePenn and Moxie include The Healing Center and Compassionate Certification Centers, one of the sponsors of Sunday's event.
Compassionate Certification Centers evaluates patients, provides education on the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, one of the chemicals found in marijuana plants, and can help patients obtain a medical marijuana card. The network of clinics is based in Pittsburgh and Butler, but has facilities in six states, according to its website.
The Healing Center is a medical marijuana dispensary with offices in Monroeville, Washington and Cranberry Twp. It began operations in June 2018.
Nicole Hawthorne and Linear Riley are representatives of Kine Hearts Magazine, one of the groups that sponsored the Medical Marijuana Health Fair. (Charlotte Hopkins photo/special to Tube City Almanac)
Other sponsors on Sunday's event included 4 Human Kind and its magazine, Kine Hearts.
The group 4 Human Kind is a grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public on marijuana, while Kine Hearts is focused on medical uses of cannabis. The magazine's Canna-Get-a-Witness column details first-person stories of people with a variety of medical conditions that they say were relieved through the use or CBD oil and marijuana.
Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has certified 21 conditions for which patients may be eligible to use medical marijuana:
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease")
Addiction Substitute Therapy (Opioid reduction)
Cancer, including cancers in remission
Damage to the Nervous Tissue of the Central Nervous System
Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Severe Chronic Pain
Sickle Cell Anemia
Medicinal marijuana comes in the forms of pills, oils, topical forms (gels, creams, ointments), vapes or nebulizers, tinctures, and liquids.
There are four steps that patients need to take before they can obtain the card. They first must register for the Medical Marijuana Program at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov. Then they must obtain a physician's certification that they suffer from one of the 21 medical conditions, and pay for the cost of the ID card. After the ID card is obtained, they may purchase medical marijuana.
Recreational use of marijuana is not legal in Pennsylvania.
Bonnie Heyman of PurePenn's sales department and Gina Rosso, community liaison, represented Moxie at Sunday's health fair. (Charlotte Hopkins photo/special to Tube City Almanac)
Correction: This story was corrected after publication to note that Greenleaf Compassion is a clinic as well as a dispensary, and to clarify that 25 facilities, not 12, have been licensed in Pennsylvania to produce medical marijuana. We apologize for any confusion. Thank you to Sven Hosford of Dispense Magazine for spotting the errors.
Charlotte Hopkins is a freelance writer from West Elizabeth. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Editor Jason Togyer contributed to this story. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published April 30, 2019.