Penn­syl­va­nia med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­gram to in­clude dry leaf form

The Citizens' Voice - - Obituaries / State / Nation - By MARK SCOLFORO

HARRISBURG — Pa­tients in Penn­syl­va­nia’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­gram should be able to ob­tain the drug in dry leaf or flower form for va­por­iza­tion by some­time this sum­mer, the Wolf ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Mon­day.

Health Sec­re­tary Dr. Rachel Levine said she was ac­cept­ing that and other rec­om­men­da­tions made re­cently by an ad­vi­sory panel, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of four med­i­cal con­di­tions to the list of those qual­i­fied to use med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

State law pre­vents dis­pen­saries from sell­ing mar­i­juana that’s de­signed to be smoked, but con­sumer ad­vo­cate Chris Gold­stein has said pa­tients who buy the dry leaf prod­uct are able to smoke it in­stead of va­por­ize it.

Levine said the op­tion of dry leaf or flower form could make the drug cheaper to pro­duce and less ex­pen­sive for pa­tients.

The Wash­ing­ton, D.c.based Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project said the change will help the state’s pa­tients.

“Pro­duc­ers will be able to get medicine into the hands of pa­tients much more quickly and for much lower cost to pa­tients,” said Becky Dan­sky, the group’s leg­isla­tive coun­sel. “This is vi­tally im­por­tant for pa­tient ac­cess right now while the pro­gram is still get­ting off the ground and pro­duc­tion is not yet at full ca­pac­ity.”

Levine said she also was adopt­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion that chil­dren who need the drug be cer­ti­fied by a pe­di­a­tri­cian, al­though she said it will take some time to im­ple­ment be­cause more pe­di­a­tri­cians will need to be en­rolled and trained.

She said physi­cians who want to be cer­ti­fied to pre­scribe med­i­cal mar­i­juana can opt out of the list of doc­tors made avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic, but reg­is­tered pa­tients will have ac­cess to the full list.

Nearly 1,000 doc­tors have reg­is­tered with the state, and more than half of them have been ap­proved to par­tic­i­pate.

The list of qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tions is be­ing ex­panded to in­clude use in can­cer re­mis­sion ther­apy and opi­oid-ad­dic­tion ther­apy, or for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive and spas­tic move­ment dis­or­ders. The list had al­ready in­cluded AIDS, autism, can­cer, epilepsy, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, chronic pain, Crohn’s dis­ease and other con­di­tions.

Of­fi­cials say the pro­gram, under which the drug be­came avail­able to pa­tients in Fe­bru­ary, has been ex­pand­ing quickly. It now en­com­passes 30,400 reg­is­tered pa­tients and 11,900 pa­tients with ID cards who have ob­tained med­i­cal mar­i­juana at a dis­pen­sary.

Two grower-pro­ces­sors are cur­rently pro­vid­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana to nine op­er­at­ing dis­pen­saries, with six more grower-pro­ces­sors and eight more dis­pen­saries poised to come on­line in the near fu­ture.

CHRISTO­PHER MILLETTE / ERIE TIMES-NEWS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A care­giver shows what a med­i­cal mar­i­juana iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card looks like for a care­giver and pa­tient dur­ing an open house in Erie on Mon­day at the re­gion’s first med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary, which will open April 18 for pa­tients with stateis­sued...

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