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Department of Health ramps up physician outreach on medical marijuana

The committee will be composed of Pennsylvania physicians

Reaching out to Pennsylvania doctors is perhaps the most critical component in launching the state’s medical marijuana program, and government officials plan to begin doing so within the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Tuesday it is forming a medical marijuana working group composed of physicians from around the state.

Doctors from local health systems, including Danville-based Geisinger Health System and Derry Township-based Penn State Health, are expected to participate in the working group, according to the department.

The department plans to create similar working groups for pharmacists and nurse practitioners, department Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy said at a press conference updating state progress in implementing a medical marijuana program.

Among other tasks, the physician working group will help the department create a survey to collect feedback from doctors regarding rules for medical marijuana.

Similar surveys have gone out to other medical marijuana stakeholders, including those interested in growing, processing and dispensing the substance for medical use.  

The department also sent a letter to providers this month updating them on the progress of the medical marijuana program, which was signed into law as Act 16 on April 17. The law took effect May 17.

Each month since Act 16 was passed, the department has offered updates on its progress with medical marijuana.

In addition to outlining plans for physician outreach, the department said Tuesday it is looking for a vendor to provide an electronic system for tracking doctors and patients taking part in the medical marijuana program. The system also will track sales of medical marijuana.

The department already has written regulations for growers and processors as well as dispensaries and laboratories.

Growers and processors should be able to apply for licenses by the end of this year, Murphy said.

The department also recently released a safe harbor provision, designed to give patients under the age of 18 access to medical marijuana while the official state program is being developed.

In May, the department formed the Bureau of Medical Marijuana, and plans to hire a director by August.

After two rounds of interviews, the department has narrowed a field of 136 applicants down to six candidates.

Lenay Ruhl

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