Pa. medical marijuana advisory board discusses patient options

HARRISBURG, Pa. --The wait for patient access to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is down to months.

Meanwhile, the state's Medical Marijuana Advisory Board still has several details to be worked out before patients can start taking the drug

The state Department of Health advisory board met Friday to layout the remaining steps in its timeline for the drug in Pennsylvania.

Some propose a few changes to the program before it's ready for patients.

Doctors could recommend patients with one of seventeen serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana for relief, but some may wonder what to do if their disease didn't make the list.

Medical Marijuana Advisory Board patient subcommittee chair Tim Keller said "broadbased categories may be the better way to go, because if we are restricting it to just specific conditions, there are going to be a lot of patients left out in the cold."

One member of Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, who also happens to be a doctor, isn't completely sold on the idea of expanding the number of conditions approved for treatment.

Board member Dr. William Trescher said "we don't know a lot about some of these conditions and how it could be used. On the other hand, we have to be a little careful about restricting physicians and how they treat their patients in a way we don't do with other conditions."

Expanding the number of conditions covered isn't the only change that medical marijuana advisory board members are talking about. Pennsylvania's medical marijuana act limits the drug to six different forms: pill, oil, topical gel or cream, liquid and solution, as well as vapor. Dry leaf is excluded.

Medical Marijuana Advisory Board member Molly Robertson said "it is important from a patient perspective, because dry leaf is more affordable. It's easier to control, and it's not nearly as potent as the concentrated oils."

Despite a May 7, 2018 deadline looming to issue a final report on medical marijuana, Keller said it's not to late to make changes to the program.

"One of the powers of the board is to expand the conditions list, expand the forms that are out there. In our final report that we present to the secretary of health, and the governor, hopefully will have settled everything in the coming months," Keller said:

"The bottom line is, if people can't affordably get access to this medical medicine, they will go to the black market, and then all of this has been for naught," Robertson said.

The advisory board will continue to discuss recommendations to the program over the next few months.

The advisory board will take public comment from March 14-23, before presenting its final report to the Governor in May.