Health Dept. begins monthly progress meetings on medical marijuana

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday held its first informational meeting to address progress on the medical marijuana program.

“This will be the first of monthly press sessions so that we can help keep the public informed on the implementation of the program,” Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy said.

Murphy says the medical marijuana program is extensive and will be patient-focused.

“Really, what we are doing is implementing a new industry in Pennsylvania,” she said.

The department is still looking to hire a program director. They have received over 120 applications.

Another priority: getting growers in place. Murphy says they have received over 100 inquiries. Twenty-five growers will be selected. The Health Department will use an online survey to help establish regulations for growers and dispensaries.

“Next month, we will have more information with the survey we are doing and we will have more information on when we will open up for applications,” Murphy said.

The Health Department is working to get identification cards to legally protect minors using medical marijuana and their caregivers. However, there are still a lot of legal questions surrounding this issue because those parents must obtain the medicine legally in another state, but it is against federal law to cross state lines with a Schedule I drug.

“The reality is it is very complex,” Murphy said.

“The secretary of health did say a lot of positive things today that will help the patient community feel better,” Lolly Bentch said.

Bentch is a member of Campaign for Compassion, the grassroots group that spearheaded the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The group was hoping all patients, not just minors, would immediately get identification cards for protection.

“It did sting a little bit to hear that adult patients won’t be covered for 18 to 24 months. We had really really hoped that adult patients would be covered during the temporary regulations, during this first phase,” Bentch said.

“We understand that and we are very empathetic and were working quickly swiftly to get this program up and running for all those that need it,” Murphy said.

Murphy says regulations addressing the administering of ID cards for minors and their caregivers should be in place by July.

It will take 18-2 4months to implement the entire program.

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