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May 15, 2018

Pennsylvania first state to OK medical marijuana to treat patients addicted to opioids

The Dept. of Health approved this new measure on Monday

Addiction Opioids
Medical Marijuana photo Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Medical marijuana.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health approved temporary changes to the state's medical marijuana program on Monday that will add addiction to the list of qualifying conditions.

This new measure would allow people in recovery to apply for the program, which allows marijuana use for a treatment of a serious medical condition, as defined by the state's Medical Marijuana Law.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said this form of treatment won’t be the first and only option for people in recovery, but it could be an option for some.

“It’s important to note that medical marijuana is not a substitute for proven treatments for opioid use disorder,” Levine said. “In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana will be available to patients if all other treatment fails, or if a physician recommends that it be used in conjunction with traditional therapies.”

These new regulations take effect May 17 and would make Pennsylvania the only state to approve such a measure, according to a news release.

“By adding opioid-use disorder as an approved medical condition under the program, we not only give physicians another tool for treatment of this devastating disease, but we allow for research to be conducted on medical marijuana’s effectiveness in treatment,” Dr. Levine said. “Only approved conditions under the law can be studied through our research program.”

The Department of Health also approved eight local universities to begin research on medical marijuana on Monday.

The universities include:

• Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia
• Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia
• Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey
• Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
• Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
• University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh
• Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), Erie
• Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia

“The research component of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program sets it apart from the rest of the nation,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”