Secretary of Health Approves Changes to Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, MD announced that she has approved several recommendations made by the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, including one which would allow physicians to opt out of the public practitioner registry.

The state’s Department of Health (DOH) has been directed to prepare regulations to enact the Advisory Board’s recommendations. Gov. Wolf says he expects the regulations enacting the recommendations to be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on May 12, 2018. Any new regulations would take effect upon publication.

Noteworthy recommendations approved by Sec. Levine include:

  • Allowing practitioners who are approved to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program to opt out of the public registry – With this recommendation, the Advisory Board hopes to encourage greater physician participation in the program.
       

  • Adding “dry leaf or plant” in a form that can be vaporized, not smoked, as an allowed form of medical marijuana. Smoking of medical marijuana will still be prohibited.

    Currently, medical marijuana is approved in pill form, topical creams and oils, including forms that can be vaporized or nebulized, liquids and tinctures. 
       

  • Expanding the list of serious medical conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana from 17 to 21. The new conditions approved by the Advisory Board are: Neurogenerative Diseases; terminal illness with a medical prognosis of life expectancy of approximately one year or less if the illness runs its normal course; Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders, and; Addiction substitute therapy – opioid reduction.    


    To date, there are 17 specific serious medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana:

    Cancer, Positive status for HIV or AIDS; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Parkinson’s Disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; Epilepsy; Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Neuropathies; Huntington’s Disease; Crohn’s Disease; PTSD; Intractable seizures; Glaucoma; Sickle Cell Anemia; Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective; or Autism.
       

  • Expanding/updating the definition of certain currently-approved conditions, such as expanding the definition of cancer to include remission therapy.

Sec. Levine also approved a recommendation requiring that only a physician who is board certified in pediatrics can recommend medical marijuana to a child. However, she plans to delay implementation of that recommendation for at least a year to allow more pediatricians and pediatric specialists to join the program.

You can find the Advisory Board’s report, including a list of 21 recommendations, online here.

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program: Noteworthy Numbers

As of April 16, 2018, more than 30,0000 patients have registered with the Medical Marijuana Program, and 10,002 Medical Marijuana Identification cards have been issued to patients. More than 500 physicians have registered and have been approved to authorize medical marijuana to qualifying patients.

The Commonwealth is now moving to Phase 2 of its program and is now accepting applications for up to 13 new grower/processer permits and up to 23 new dispensary permits. Access the state’s resources on dispensaries (including those already in operation) here and growers and processors (including those already in operation) here.

Additional Resources

You can find DOH’s online resources on medical marijuana at www.medicalmarijuana.pa.gov.

PAMED members with questions on the Medical Marijuana Program can also contact our Knowledge Center at 855-PAMED4U (855-726-3348) or KnowledgeCenter@pamedsoc.org.  

2 comments

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  1. Jeff Wirick | Apr 13, 2018
    Thanks for your comment. I checked with our legal team and they said it is still against the law to smoke medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. As the article above mentions, medical marijuana is approved in pill form, topical creams and oils, including forms that can be vaporized or nebulized, liquids and tinctures. The dispensaries will ultimately determine how to sell dry leaf forms.
  2. Steve Karp | Apr 13, 2018
    So what will be smoked? Is it what's been studied? It's likely that science has taken a back seat to politics once again.

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