Three medical marijuana changes being considered

"Law enforcement needs some training, but we need the assistance of the Department of Health."

  • Brett Sholtis

(Harrisburg) — State Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine led discussion with the medical marijuana advisory board around adding anxiety and Tourette Syndrome to the list of conditions to be treated with medical cannabis.

Board members also discussed training for police who may encounter people with medical marijuana and voted down a petition to remove opioid use disorder from the list of approved conditions.

Here’s more from the May 15 medical marijuana advisory board meeting.

Decision this summer for anxiety, Tourette’s

Levine said she will decide this summer whether to approve anxiety and Tourette Syndrome as approved conditions to be treated with medical marijuana.

In February, the medical marijuana advisory board approved the two conditions to be added to the list. However, Levine has not signed off on it. Currently, people can get medical marijuana permits for 21 medical conditions, such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Levine said she needs more time to learn how cannabis might treat anxiety and Tourette’s.

“There’s a lot of literature to look at, in its different forms,” Levine said. “I also like to talk sometimes with experts throughout the country to get their view. I have not completed that, but I will complete it this summer.”

Training for police

Board member John Adams faults the Department of Health for providing only one bulletin, and no training, on how police can identify packaging and products produced legally.

Adams, who is the Berks County district attorney, said police can’t tell whether a product is legal medical marijuana or something that has been bought on the black market.

“Law enforcement needs some training, but we need the assistance of the Department of Health,” he said.

Matt Smith / WHYY

Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams is photographed in his office at Berks County Courthouse in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Levine said she’ll work with law enforcement to provide more training.

Department of Health spokeswoman April Hutcheson noted that people who legally use medical marijuana have identification cards, and information listed on medical marijuana packages includes the patient’s name.

“We do tell patients that they need to make sure that if they are transporting their medication that they’re keeping it in the original container,” Hutcheson said. “If they take it out of the original container, then essentially they could be subject to law enforcement issues with diversion.”

Opioid use disorder under scrutiny

A petition sought to remove opioid use disorder from the list of 21 approved conditions for medical cannabis treatment.

The board voted down the petition 6-4.

Adams was among those who voted to see opioid use disorder removed from the list. He said he was concerned about people substituting one drug for another and “also using physicians who may not be experts in how the two interact.”

Levine pointed out that medical marijuana is only permitted for opioid use disorder in cases where “conventional therapeutic interventions” don’t work, as well as where cannabis supplements other treatment.

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