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Pennsylvania recently became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana.
The state Department of Health will establish Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program in the next 18 to 24 months. Under the new law, physicians may issue certifications for medical marijuana to patients diagnosed with one of 17 specific medical conditions.

Angela O. Boateng

What does the new law mean for you and your patients?
Angela Odjidja Boateng, Senior Associate General Counsel with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, answered common questions about medical marijuana at a June CME event for members of LG Health’s Medical & Dental Staff.
When will medical marijuana be available to patients?
The state Department of Health must pass the necessary regulations to establish Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. This will likely take 18 to 24 months.
Who may receive a certification for medical marijuana?
The patient must:

  • Have one of 17 specific serious medical conditions (see list below) as diagnosed by a Department of Health-registered physician and included in the medical record

  • Be under a practitioner’s continuing care

  • Be likely to receive a therapeutic/palliative benefit from medical marijuana

Who may medical marijuana be dispensed to?

  • A patient who has a certification from a practitioner (physician registered with the Department of Health) and is in possession of a valid ID card issued by the Department of Health

  • A caregiver who is in possession of a valid ID card issued by the Department of Health

How can practitioners participate in the medical marijuana program?
Practitioners must hold a valid, unrevoked, unsuspended, unexpired medical license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania and submit an application to the Department of Health. Approved practitioners must complete a four-hour training course developed by the Department of Health.
How will the state monitor patients and practitioners in the program?
The Department of Health will maintain a database of patients and caregivers approved to use or assist in the administration of medical marijuana.
Approved practitioners will be listed in a statewide registry that is reviewed annually by the Department of Health. Only the names, business addresses and medical credentials of authorized practitioners will be publicly listed.
What are some restrictions for practitioners in the program?
Practitioners may not:

  • Accept or solicit remuneration from anyone

  • Hold direct or economic interest in a medical marijuana organization

  • Advertise

  • Issue certifications to family or household members, or for personal use

What are the 17 serious medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana?

  • Cancer


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity

  • Epilepsy

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Neuropathies

  • Huntington's disease

  • Crohn's disease

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Intractable seizures

  • Glaucoma

  • Sickle cell anemia

  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective

  • Autism

Can minors receive a certification for medical marijuana?
Patients under age 18 must have a designated caregiver, such as a parent or legal guardian; an individual designated by a parent or legal guardian; or an appropriate individual approved by the Department of Health.
What forms of medical marijuana does the law allow?
Medical marijuana may be sold in liquid, pill, oil, topical, tincture or a form medically appropriate for administration by nebulization/vaporization, excluding dry leaf or plant form until dry leaf or plant forms become acceptable under regulation. Marijuana may not be dispensed in an edible form. Smoking is not permitted.
Where can patients obtain medical marijuana?
The Department of Health will approve up to 50 organizations (dispensaries) to grow, process and sell medical marijuana. Each may have up to three locations, with a physician and pharmacist at the main site at all times for monitoring and to answer patient questions. Patients may obtain no more than a 30-day supply at a time.
What else is required of practitioners?
Practitioners must review the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to determine the controlled substance history of the patient prior to issuing a certification and in order to recommend a change of amount or form of medical marijuana.
Practitioners must notify the Department of Health in writing if:

  • The patient no longer has a serious medical condition.

  • Medical marijuana would no longer be therapeutic.

  • The patient has died.

What happens if a practitioner violates the law?
Violation of the law could result in criminal and civil penalties, including jail time, fines and suspension, or disciplinary action by the state medical board.

  • To view a recording Angela Boateng’s medical marijuana talk, visit the CME site.

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