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Sen. Daylin Leach asks Keystone ReLeaf to reconsider move to halt medical marijuana in Pennsylvania

Ben Schmitt
| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 11:54 a.m.
Marijuana plants
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Marijuana plants

A state senator Tuesday again pleaded with a marijuana grower to reconsider its legal effort to shut down or delay Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program.

Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, held a press conference at the Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg on Tuesday morning to voice objection to Keystone ReLeaf's request to halt the statewide implementation of medical marijuana.

"We're asking Keystone ReLeaf and others contemplating litigation to seek whatever relief they think is appropriate, but do not attempt to shut down the entire program," said Leach, who broadcast the conference on Facebook Live.

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.

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 eventually be identified.

Campaign for Compassion director Cara Salemme, appearing with Leach, said any effort to delay the program is selfish. Campaign for Compassion is a medical marijuana advocacy group.

"You win some, you lose some, and there is a second round of licenses," she said. "You need to do better next time. You don't risk lives in the meantime."

Angela Ferro, also of Campaign for Compassion, read letters from parents of children using medical marijuana for various health conditions, under the state's safe harbor law.

"It's been a long and challenging journey, and the only thing this has ever been about for us is the patients," she said.

The state has approved more than 300 applications through the "safe harbor" program, allowing caretakers of those younger than 18 to obtain medicine from other states.

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.

Safe harbor letters will expire next May.

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 being implemented.

Leach said he held the press conference Tuesday because Keystone ReLeaf has not responded to a Sept. 11 letter he wrote to its attorneys.

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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