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Penn State med school among those approved to research medical marijuana in Pa.

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Eight Pennsylvania medical schools, including Penn State College of Medicine, have been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to undertake clinical research into medical marijuana.

The schools will be able to study how medical marijuana affects people with conditions that are eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The conditions include cancer, autism, epilepsy and HIV/AIDS.

The list of approved conditions was recently expanded to include opioid addiction, among others.

The eight universities allowed to study cannabis as medication are:

• Penn State College of Medicine, Derry Township 

Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia

Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia

Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia

"Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.

Some of those patients will now include people with opioid addictions, a population that many believe would benefit from medical marijuana.

"It’s important to note that medical marijuana is not a substitute for proven treatments for opioid-use disorder. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana will be available to patients if all other treatment fails, or if a physician recommends that it be used in conjunction with traditional therapies," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement.

A number of other medical conditions are also now eligible for the state's medical marijuana program. They include neurodegenerative diseases, terminal illness and spastic movement disorders.

The new regulations take effect Thursday. Other changes to the program include:

• Revising the definition of serious chronic pain to no longer require patients to use opioids before using medical marijuana

• Permitting medical marijuana to be dispensed in dry leaf or plant form, for administration by vaporization

• Allowing physicians to opt out of the public-facing practitioner list while remaining in the Patient and Caregiver Registry

• Requiring patients to pay the $50 medical marijuana identification card fee once in a 12-month period

More than 37,000 patients have registered to participate in the medical marijuana program, with over 16,000 having received their identification cards and purchased medical marijuana at a dispensary. In addition, 1,000 physicians have registered for the program with more than 600 certified as practitioners.

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Shelby White

Shelby White covers banking and finance, law and Lancaster County for the Central Penn Business Journal. For tips, email her at swhite@cpbj.com.

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