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Daylin Leach says ReLeaf lawsuit could hurt medical marijuana program

Ben Schmitt
| Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, 12:24 p.m.
Marijuana plants. (File photo)
Getty Images
Marijuana plants. (File photo)
Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

A state senator expressed concern that a jilted marijuana grower's lawsuit against the state could shut down or delay Pennsylvania medical marijuana program, scheduled to launch next year.

Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, said in a letter to an attorney for Bethlehem's Keystone ReLeaf LLC that: “If the entire program is delayed, people will be forced to needlessly endure excruciating pain, agony, and, in some cases, death.”

Attorney Seth Tipton filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on Friday. Keystone ReLeaf is seeking an injunction against the state Department of Health, according to a report by philly.com. The company has asked the court to rescind all awarded permits and start from scratch.

Keystone ReLeaf unsuccessfully applied to win one of 12 permits, of the 25 allowed by law, awarded in June to grow and process marijuana in the state, according to philly.com.

The lawsuit contends the state's process is “infected by bias and favoritism” because the Department of Health has kept the panelists who picked the permit winners secret, in violation of the state's Right-to-Know law. The state Office of Open Records recently ruled that the panelists must be identified.

The Health Department issued a statement in response to the lawsuit.

“There are Pennsylvanians suffering today from cancer, Parkinson's and epileptic seizures who need to legally use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. Any delay in the program means that they are delayed in getting the help they desperately need,” spokeswoman April Hutcheson wrote in an email Tuesday. “We continue to move forward with a patient-focused program designed to give Pennsylvanians with serious medical conditions relief.”

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, among them 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, a Democrat, signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016, and dispensaries and growers are currently being implemented.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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