Medical marijuana sales on rise in Pennsylvania since coronavirus outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Medical marijuana sales have dramatically increased in Southeastern Pennsylvania since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

"I am a cancer patient. I have neuropathy in my hands and feet and horrible insomnia," said Anna Squitieri of South Philadelphia.

Hernina Gamble said, "I have anxiety and I was just diagnosed with cancer."

As a treatment, they've opted to use medical marijuana for pain management.

Squitieri said, "Your other option is pills and I'm not a pill kind of person."

Gamble said, "I just didn't like the fact I had to take so many pain pills and it wasn't helping."

These women are part of a medical marijuana trend in Pennsylvania that has exploded specifically during the time of the coronavirus.

Action News spoke with Mike Badey who owns Keystone Shops, a medical marijuana dispensary with locations in Philadelphia, Devon and King of Prussia.

"We've seen an almost doubling in overall revenues and patient counts," Badey said.

He says the catalyst behind the rapid growth during the virus is telemedicine.

"So patients can now get their medical marijuana card directly over the phone and we can now allow parking lot delivery which is what we do at all three of our stores. There is low or no contact delivery," said Badey.

Barry Greenberg of The Greener Institute in Hatboro, Pennsylvania agrees.

"It was a huge opportunity for people," he says.

His shop isn't a dispensary, but he offers education and links people up with his team of doctors for consultations.

He adds there's, without question, a link between the virus and anxiety.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states where a diagnosis of anxiety qualifies someone for a medical marijuana prescription.

"COVID-19 came around and a lot of people are very anxious and have issues that way and are finding medical marijuana is helpful to them," said Greenberg.

In fact, according the Pennsylvania State Health Department, since the program's inception two and half years ago, total sales were at $415 million as of early February.

But just a short six months later, in early August, that number almost doubled, climbing to $789 million. Plus, roughly 100,000 new patients registered during that six month period.

Greenberg says business is up 400%.
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