Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program Update BY TOM SANTANNA

The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program (Act 16 of 2016) has grown significantly since it was signed into law just over two years ago and continues to expand in positive directions for patients across the Commonwealth.

In April, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board created by Act 16 made recommendations for changes to the program that the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health approved. The definition of pain was changed from “severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention or opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective” to “severe chronic or intractable pain”. This broadens the definition of chronic pain to allow more patients to be treated.

Four new qualifying conditions were added: “neurodegenrative diseases”, such as ALS, Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s, dementia; “terminally ill”; “dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders”, for tics, tremors, Tourette’s syndrome and dystonia; and “addiction substitute therapy-opioid reduction”, which is to help with the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis. The board also made an expansion to the definition of “cancer” to “cancer; including remission therapy”.

The preexisting qualifying conditions that would allow for patients to receive medical cannabis therapy include: HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal or neurological indication of spasticity, inflammatory bowel, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, autism, sickle cell anemia, and pain.

The board also added that “dry leaf”, also known as flower or buds, will be allowed for vaporization. Smoking of dry leaf is not permitted under the law. The department is hopeful that dry leaf will be available to Pennsylvania patients this summer. The preexisting forms are: oil, tincture, pill, topicals and “a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization”, which means oil and extracts that could be used in a device such as a vape pen for consumption.

The department of health announced earlier this year that there will be a Phase II of permit applications which will allow for 13 more grower/processor permits and up to 23 new dispensary permits. The application period for these permits closed in mid-May, with the permits to be awarded after review by the Department of Health.

The Department of Health website (health.pa.gov) offers detailed instructions on how to obtain a medical marijuana card, as well as a list of participating doctors. Healthcare organizations located across the Commonwealth such as doctor-owned Compassionate Certification Centers (CompassionateCertificationCenters.com) are also familiar with the newly added conditions and seeing potential patients that want to receive a certification card.

Tom Santanna is the president of Tom Santanna Strategic Consulting (TSSC), a Harrisburg government relations practice, as well as a RTY-200 yogi. For more information, email Tom@TSSC-PA.com or visit TomSantanna.com.