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Pa. medical marijuana patient registry swells in first week

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In its first week, Pennsylvania's registry for medical marijuana patients and caregivers has attracted more than 4,000 names, state health officials said Wednesday.

Those names include just over 3,800 patients and more than 200 caregivers.

"The response from patients and caregivers has been extremely positive," said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state's acting health secretary and physician general.

The registry, and a related website, were formally launched last week.

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016, is scheduled to be operational in the first half of 2018.

Health officials this summer approved the first batch of 12 grower/processor licenses and 27 dispensary licenses. So far, health officials said, three grower/processors have received approval to begin production of medical marijuana, and the others are working to meet the state's requirements so they can follow suit.

Patients who have signed up for the registry will start receiving ID cards in December, health department officials have said.

Pennsylvania is entering the medical marijuana arena at a time when the drug is at the center of a growing national controversy.

Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, meaning the U.S. Justice Department deems it to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains an opponent of marijuana use and has signaled that he wants to curtail the spread of legalization. There are fears that his efforts could lead to a crackdown not just on recreational use, but on medical use as well.

"The success of the patient registry one week since it was announced is another indicator of the need for this vital medication, and a testament to the department’s commitment to making medical marijuana available to patients in 2018," Wolf said Wednesday.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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