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July 11, 2019

Pennsylvania adds anxiety disorders, Tourette syndrome to medical marijuana program

Cannabis is now approved to treat 23 different conditions

Alternative Medicine Marijuana
Medical marijuana anxiety Pennsylvania Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Pennsylvania is adding anxiety disorders and Tourette syndrome to the list of approved serious medical conditions in the state's medical marijuana program.

Anxiety disorders and Tourette syndrome will be added to the list of approved serious medical conditions in Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program starting July 20, the state's Department of Health announced Thursday.

The conditions will join 21 other approved conditions in the medical marijuana program at the recommendation of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement Thursday.

"I do not take this decision lightly," Levine said, "and do have recommendations for physicians, dispensary pharmacists and patients in terms of the use of medical marijuana to treat these conditions."

Levine said the program will not consider medical marijuana "first line" treatment for the newly added conditions, but medical marijuana can be prescribed along with traditional therapy treatments. Medical marijuana with low THC and high CBD content are effective for treating anxiety disorders, Levine said.

The treatment is not recommended for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders, Levine said, because their brains are still developing. It's also not recommended for pregnant women, because of the still-unknown impacts on fetuses.

According to the Department of Health, Pennsylvania has registered nearly 165,000 patients in the medical marijuana program since it was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016.

Pennsylvania's House held a hearing about legalizing recreational cannabis last month, after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman concluded his tour of the state in which he asked people in all 67 counties what they thought about legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Fetterman said he believes roughly two-thirds of people who he talked to supported legalizing recreational marijuana.

After opposing legalization of recreational marijuana for years, Wolf softened his stance last December when he said it's time for the state to take a "serious look" at legalization.

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