On Tuesday, July 19, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health took another step forward in the implementation of the state’s Medical Marijuana Act by establishing a Physician’s Work Group.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Karen Murphy, in an announcement from the DOH, said, “We have started working closely with physician groups to disseminate important information, and have formed a physician workgroup to ensure continued communication and feedback on the program and its implementation. Physicians and their medical expertise are crucial to the success of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, and we will continue to engage them throughout the process to ensure their medical expertise is heard on behalf of patients.”
It is important for the implementation of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act to assist physicians and/or practitioners in the process. Under Section 401 of the Act, in order for a physician to issue certifications to patients for the use of medical marijuana, the physician must apply for registration, be determined by the DOH to be qualified to treat the defined 17 “serious medical conditions”, and complete the four hour training course under section 301(a)(6). Once the application is approved, the physician and/or practitioner will be placed in the registry and subject to annual review. The physician will also be required to adhere to the regulations established by the DOH for physicians and/or practitioners listed on the registry. Obviously, it is crucial to the implementation of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program to have a sufficient number physicians to certify patients.
Some states with medical marijuana programs have had difficulties finding enough physicians who are willing to prescribe medical marijuana. I previously wrote in my blog, Will Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act Get Doc Blocked, about the reluctance of physicians in Minnesota to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. For various reasons more fully discussed in my blog, Minnesota physicians were not eager to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. Because there was initially too few physicians in Minnesota who were willing to participate, it was difficult for patients to be certified.
Secretary Murphy states that the DOH is being very thoughtful and thorough in its approach to developing and implementing the states medical marijuana program. It also helps to be able to learn from other state’s medical programs to avoid any pitfalls experienced in the initial start up these programs.
The first Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup will be convened within the next few weeks. Participants will include:
Allegheny Health Network
Geisinger Health System
Penn State Health
Port Allegany Health Center
Temple University Health Systems
The Lehigh Valley Health Network
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals
University of Pennsylvania – Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
The Commonwealth Medical College
Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians
Pennsylvania Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics
Pennsylvania Medical Society
The DOH will also release a survey to help in the development of temporary regulations for physicians. Additional information can be obtained at the DOH’s website.