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Pennsylvania releases list of doctors able to prescribe medical marijuana

Ben Schmitt
| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 10:18 a.m.

There are 10 doctors in Allegheny County approved to prescribe medical marijuana, according to a list released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Five doctors in Butler County received approval, along with two in Washington County and one in Beaver County.

So far, no doctors in Westmoreland County have been approved.

State officials said more than 300 physicians have registered with the department to participate in the program. Of those, 109 have been approved as practitioners. The rest are completing the required training and review process.

Interested doctors must register with the state and complete a four-hour training course before final review by the Health Department.

Dr. Adam Rothschild, a family physician at Handelsman Family Practice in Munhall, was among those approved in Allegheny County. He said he plans to set up his medical marijuana practice in either Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill or East Liberty neighborhood and continue to see patients at the family practice.

He said he's been flooded with calls from people expressing interest.

“There are a lot of patients who don't get relief from conventional or even complementary medical therapies,” Rothschild told the Tribune-Review on Monday. “Cannabis has been used successfully by many patients elsewhere. It is an incredibly safe drug, certainly when compared to opioids and even compared to aspirin. It has the potential to help a lot of people. I'm also not afraid of cannabis. I think a lot of physicians are afraid of this unknown.”

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, among them 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.

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.

“We cannot underestimate the role physicians have played in making sure that patients can access medical marijuana,” acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “Our physician workgroup also has been helping to make sure this program remains medically focused and an important tool in our medical toolkit.”

Last week, state officials said the medical marijuana program should be fully operational within six months .

To view the statewide list of approved physicians, click here .

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

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