Physicians interested in participating in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program can now register as practitioners, the Department of Health announced Tuesday.
In addition, the health department has approved two continuing education providers to offer the four-hour training required for practitioners. They are The Answer Page Inc. and Extra Step Assurance LLC.
Since medical marijuana was legalized in April 2016, the health department has been working to implement a “patient-focused” program for those “in desperate need of medication,” Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Rachel Levine said.
“Many physicians treat these patients every day and understand the impact this medication could have on their treatment,” she said. “Once these physicians register and complete the required continuing education, they can be approved to participate in the program.”
In Pennsylvania, 17 conditions qualify for treatment with medical marijuana. While doctors won’t outright prescribe medical marijuana, they will certify that patients would benefit from its use. Patients would then have to register with the state to obtain an ID card allowing them to go to a dispensary for the drug.
Neighboring states with medical marijuana programs have struggled to get robust doctor participation. Fewer than 2 percent of New Jersey’s licensed doctors are participating in the program seven years after medical marijuana was legalized. About 1 percent of doctors are participating in New York, which legalized medical marijuana in 2014.
However, a host of factors — including registration and prescription requirements, the number of dispensaries and cost of the drug — are specific to states, making it difficult to compare participation from one state to the next, industry experts say.
Locally, officials from Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network and Easton Hospital said they have no plans to spearhead the registration of their doctors.
Three-quarters of the 191 doctors who participated in a health department survey said they would register with the medical marijuana program. But more than 46,000 other practicing physicians in Pennsylvania did not take the survey.
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