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Pennsylvania opens up medical marijuana registry for patients and caregivers

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, 11:45 a.m.
A leaf of marijuana (AP Photo)
A leaf of marijuana (AP Photo)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday said patients in need will be able to get medical marijuana within six months.

State officials announced the development in Harrisburg while unveiling a new patient and caregiver registry.

Patients and caregivers can register at the health department's website .

John Collins, director of Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Program, said residents interested in using marijuana for their medical conditions should talk to their doctors to make sure their doctors are registered to participate in the program.

So far, more than 100 doctors have been approved to participate in the program, Collins said.

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

Qualified patients with a doctor's recommendation will receive a Pennsylvania medical marijuana identification card, allowing the purchase of medical marijuana from an authorized state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Dispensaries are also allowed to sell equipment, such as vaping devices for liquid forms, to administer medical marijuana.

In the interim, the state has approved 231 applications through the "safe harbor" program, allowing caretakers of those younger than 18 to obtain medicine from other states.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016. Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania will be available in pills, oils, tinctures or ointments. The health department is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form.

State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, who co-sponsored the medical marijuana program, is a survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had used marijuana for pain management. He said he believes in the science behind medical marijuana to help treat various ailments.

"I did this bill because it was the right thing to do," he said. "It seems so surreal that we are one step closer."

Diana Briggs, whose 17-year-old son Ryan suffers multiple seizures a day, attended Wednesday's news conference at the Capitol.

"Today our family celebrates this news," she said.

Briggs, of Export, is among state residents granted permission to purchase medical marijuana from others states until Pennsylvania's program is running. She said her son's seizures have been reduced dramatically through marijuana treatment, and he now sleeps through the night most of the time.

"My husband and I have given Ryan the quality of life we had hoped and dreamed to give him," through medical marijuana, she said.

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