State panel OKs process to add conditions qualifying for medical marijuana

State residents and doctors can now ask a state advisory board to add conditions to the list of serious medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania currently allows people to treat 21 medical conditions with medical marijuana. The regulatory board that adds new conditions to the list unanimously approved a process last month to begin accepting requests.

The medical marijuana advisory board is tasked by the state with adding new conditions. By entertaining requests from individuals and physicians to add conditions, the state can ensure it stays relevant as medical research evolves, according to Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of the state Department of Health.

“As medical literature surrounding the uses of medical marijuana expands, we want to ensure our list of qualifying conditions meets the needs of Pennsylvanians,” Levine said in a press release.

When Gov. Tom Wolf signed the medical marijuana program into law in 2016, it covered 17 conditions. Earlier this year, the board approved the addition to the list of neurodegenerative diseases, terminal illness, dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders, and opioid-use disorder.

Applicants can request to have conditions added or removed from the list but must include references and documentation supporting the benefits of using medical marijuana for the condition, or documentation proving why the condition should be dropped.

While some conditions may be added in the new process, Nate Wardle, press secretary for the department, said that listed conditions also could be tweaked.

A change, for example, could mean broadening the treatable condition of post-traumatic stress disorder to include anxiety, he said.

Applications that are approved by the board in the new process are taken to Levine for consideration. Applicants whose requests are rejected can request reconsideration. If they are denied a second time, the request is denied for one year or until there is new scientific evidence backing up the applicant’s claims. 

Wardle said he was unaware of other states with an application process similar to the one the board approved. 

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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