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Pennsylvania Health Department fights to keep medical marijuana panel secret

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 3:33 p.m.
Marijuana plants. (File photo)
Getty Images
Marijuana plants. (File photo)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to fight a ruling that it must identify the members of a panel that evaluated applications for state medical marijuana permits.

“Releasing this information puts these state employees at personal risk for harassment or worse, and the regulations specifically protect this information, as best practices from other states support insulating these state employees from outside influence or harassment,” the Health Department said in a statement Friday afternoon. “These highly vetted employees, all issue area experts, worked to ensure that the department chose the best companies to provide relief to children and others in need of this medicine.”

In August, the state Office of Open Records ruled the Health Department had to disclose the names of members of the panel after a PennLive reporter filed a Right-to-Know request seeking the names, job titles and departments of the individuals on the panel. DOH appealed that ruling Friday to Commonwealth Court.

This summer, the Health Department released the names of 27 statewide medical marijuana dispensaries and 12 growers.

The state received 280 applications for dispensary permits and 177 applications for grower/processer permits.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a medical marijuana bill into law in April 2016.

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.

The program is expected to be up and running by mid-2018.

Potential growers were required to submit a nonrefundable $10,000 application fee; pay a $200,000 permit fee, which was refundable if the permit was not granted; and show proof of $2 million in capital.

Dispensaries had to pay a nonrefundable $5,000 application fee; submit a $30,000 permit fee, which was refundable if the permit was not granted; and show proof of $150,000 in capital.

Last week, health department officials dismissed chatter about medical marijuana growers trying to shop licenses to other companies.

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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