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Trib editorial: Westmoreland lacks medical-marijuana doctors

| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 9:24 a.m.
An artist's rendering of Greensburg's proposed medical marijuana dispensary. (WPXI)
An artist's rendering of Greensburg's proposed medical marijuana dispensary. (WPXI)

Pennsylvania's legal medical marijuana program continues to ramp up, but in Westmoreland County, a key element was missing as of Nov. 1: “approved practitioners” — physicians authorized by the state Health Department to prescribe this promising, plant-based medication.

The department said Nov. 1 that patients will be able to get that medication within six months. And on Nov. 2, the first day when patients and caregivers could apply to obtain medical-marijuana cards, it reported more than 1,000 did so.

A medical marijuana dispensary will be located in Greensburg — the only such facility planned for Westmoreland County. But the list of practitioners approved as of Oct. 13, posted online Nov. 1 by the department, does not include even one physician in the county. The list includes 10 “approved practitioners” in Allegheny County, five in Butler County, two in Washington County and one each in Beaver, Cambria and Greene counties — but zero in Westmoreland.

Of course, no physician is obligated to participate. But all Pennsylvanians should hope many will, particularly because the state wisely includes “severe chronic or intractable pain” — which too often leads patients to opioid addiction — as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Westmoreland patients shouldn't have to leave their county to obtain medical-marijuana prescriptions that they'll be able to fill in Greensburg. But they will — unless physicians in the county join the “approved practitioners” list.

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