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Medical marijuana patient evaluation center opens in Pittsburgh

Ben Schmitt
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REUTERS
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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Nina Mitchell (left), of Beechview attends a rally in support of medical marijuana with her granddaughter Antania Hawkins, 10, on the capitol steps in Harrisburg on Monday, June 1, 2015. The rally was conducted in support of Senate Bill 3 which passed the Senate and has stalled in the House of Representatives Health Committee. Hawkins suffers from Dravet syndrome and can sometimes have over 1,000 seizures a day as a result. Medicine derived from cannabis has been shown to be a treatment for Dravet.

A national medical marijuana network opened an office in Pittsburgh this week to help eligible patients with evaluations and certifications for cannabis treatment.

Compassionate Certification Centers announced Friday its office opened on Stanwix Street in Gateway Center.

Dr. Bryan Doner and Dr. Keyur Patel of Compassionate Certification Centers will oversee the office to provide “medical cannabis evaluations, guidance through the certification process and continued treatment care for eligible patients who have been diagnosed with one of 17 state qualifying conditions.”

“We want to set a new benchmark in medical cannabis care. Our physicians and health care providers come from a variety of sub-specialties and are certified by their respective state,” Doner said in a news release. “We are more than just certification centers, and we are proud to offer patients ongoing care and support based on their individual needs.”

Compassionate Certification Centers plans to open 25 patient centers throughout Pennsylvania. Its officials said that about 200,000 state residents are able to qualify for medical marijuana cards. By Friday, the new Pittsburgh office had already booked 93 patients. No referral is necessary, officials said.

Under state law, patients can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if a doctor certifies they have one of 17 qualified medical conditions, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.

Qualified patients with a doctor’s recommendation must register with the state Department of Health. After that,the patient will receive a Pennsylvania medical marijuana identification card, allowing the purchase of medical marijuana from an authorized state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.

The Health Department is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form. Dispensaries are allowed to sell equipment, such as vaping devices for liquid forms, to administer medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016 and dispensaries and growers are currently being implemented.

Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania will be available in pills, oils, tinctures and ointments.

A job fair for a state-approved marijuana grower and processor, PurePenn, in McKeesport drew hundreds of applicants in July.

In April, Compassionate Certification Centers organized a World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The second annual event will take place April 12-14, 2018, at the same location.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, [email protected] or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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