November 1st marked the beginning of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program as patient and caregiver signups began. Already there have been over 3,800 patients to sign up and the response has been very positive. State ID cards will be the next step for patients and they'll take a few more weeks for officials to get them delivered. The biggest setback at the moment is getting an adequate amount of doctors to participate as many of the currently registered physicians have become overwhelmed with appointments. Next week the state-issued registry of doctors authorized to recommend cannabis will be expanded and available for patients to more easily find them. Currently there are 17 conditions that qualify patients to be treated with medical cannabis and the state will only allow vape cartridges, oils, tinctures, and lotions, which means no smokable forms are permitted. Patients can expect to be able to make their first purchases by early 2018.
The response “has been extremely positive,” said Rachel Levine, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. At one point last week, the state was registering three patients a minute. It may be weeks, though, before those patients are issued state ID cards that will allow them to purchase medical cannabis products. And those products won't be available until early 2018.
Patients with 17 qualifying conditions, from chronic pain to terminal cancer, will be eligible to purchase products at state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries. Those products include vape cartridges, oils, tinctures and lotions, but no smokable forms of marijuana can be lawfully sold in the state.
“There's an opioid epidemic going on out there,” said Mergaman, an anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist who practices in Lansdale and Huntington Valley. “I'm hoping medical marijuana will help my patients wean more quickly off those drugs.”