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Pennsylvania Health Department ordered to grant access to medical marijuana providers

Ben Schmitt
AlaskaMarijuana23114jpg326f3
Associated Press
A leaf of marijuana

The Pennsylvania Department of Health must reveal more information about organizations that applied for licenses to be medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, according to a state Office of Open Records ruling.

Over the summer, the Health Department released the names of 27 statewide medical marijuana dispensaries and 12 growers. But much of the information was redacted, as the department allowed applicants to black out information they wanted kept confidential.

A ruling Thursday by Office of Open Records appeals officer Kyle Applegate orders the state to republish the applicants with more information, including financial backers, principals and operators.

The state has 30 days to comply or appeal to Commonwealth Court.

“We are reviewing the order and weighing our options,” Health Department spokeswoman April Hutcheson said Monday.

“The medical marijuana industry needs to get up and running in full sunlight — not behind a smoke screen,” said Cate Barron , vice president of content for PA Media Group, the corporate parent of PennLive and The Patriot-News, according to a PennLive report. “But that’s what resulted when the people going after the grower and dispensary permits were allowed to censor their own applications.”

PennLive was one of the media outlets that filed a Right-to-Know request seeking more information from the list of applicants.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016.

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

The program is expected to be operational sometime this year.

Potential growers were required to submit a nonrefundable $10,000 application fee; pay a $200,000 permit fee, which was refundable if the permit was not granted; and show proof of $2 million in capital.

Dispensaries had to pay a nonrefundable $5,000 application fee; submit a $30,000 permit fee, which was refundable if the permit was not granted; and show proof of $150,000 in capital.

The Health Department has already appealed a separate Office of Open Records ruling that it must identify the members of a panel that evaluated applications for state medical marijuana permits.

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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