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Pa. doctors on board with medical marijuana, survey says |

Pa. doctors on board with medical marijuana, survey says


Pennsylvania doctors appear to be onboard with the state’s developing medical marijuana program.

About 75 percent of 191 physicians said in a survey they would register in the program in order to prescribe medical marijuana, the state Department of Health announced Wednesday.

“Many physicians treat these patients every day and understand the impact this medication could have on their treatment,” Rachel Levine, the state’s secretary of health and physician general, said in a news release. “Once these physicians register and complete the required continuing education, they can be approved to participate in the program.”

Participating doctors must complete a four-hour training course developed by the state. The Health Department plans to maintain a database of registered physicians.

“We know there are a lot of doctors who want to use this as a treatment method from their patients,” said April Hutcheson, a Health Department spokeswoman.

She cited 282 safe harbor letters approved by doctors as proof. The safe harbor program allows caretakers of those younger than 18 to obtain medical marijuana from other states, with doctor approval, until the program is up and running.

The survey asked doctors if they would participate in the program and take the required training course.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the medical marijuana program into law in April 2016. State officials hope to have it fully operational in 2018.

Patients can consume marijuana in the form of pills, oils and tinctures. Liquid forms of cannabis would also be available for vaporization. The program forbids smoking dry leaf marijuana.

Dispensaries are allowed to sell equipment, such as vaping devices for liquid forms, to administer medical marijuana. Under state law, patients — after consulting with doctors — can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if a doctor certifies that they have one of 17 qualified medical conditions, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.

Under the program, a physician must certify that a patient suffers from one of the 17 medical conditions, thereby enabling the patient to obtain a medical marijuana identification card.

The card permits patients to receive medical marijuana at a state dispensary.

Participating doctors must complete a four-hour training course developed by the state. The Health Department plans to maintain a database of registered physicians.

“This is definitely another tool for the doctors to use on top of traditional medication that is prescribed,” Hutcheson said.

Last month, the state announced permits Tuesday to 12 companies that applied to grow and process medical marijuana along with dispensaries .

One of those growers and processors, PurePenn LLC in McKeesport, is scheduled to break ground Thursday on a new 21,000-square-foot facility.

The state Office of Medical Marijuana received 457 applications — 177 for growers and processors and 280 for dispensaries.

Information on medical marijuana is available on the Department of Health website.

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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