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Pennsylvania Department of Health Will Consider Expanding the State’s Medical Cannabis Program


Pennsylvanians who suffer from depression, anxiety or insomnia might soon be able to find some relief with medical cannabis, thanks to the approval of a new process in expanding the state’s qualifying conditions. State Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle made the announcement about the new process, adding that research-based petitions for additions to the list will be accepted in the next few weeks. The Board will review the first submissions at their next meeting on February 1st, 2019.

There are many physicians who are pleased with the Department of Health’s consideration to expand the list of qualifying conditions. One of them is Dr. Roxanne Rick, who specializes in pain management, offering an alternative to opioids. Dr. Rick told Trib Live something that has never been a secret to cannabis advocates.

“Pennsylvanians have been using marijuana illicitly for years to treat a wide variety of conditions not on the state list,” Rick said.

Dr. Rick certainly isn’t the only Pennsylvania doctor in favor of expanding the list of qualifying conditions. Dr. Elizabeth Spaar of Spectrum Family Practice in Verona, PA echoes Dr. Rick’s sentiment. The facility focuses on treating addiction, adults and children with autism and infection-induced autoimmune conditions.

“We definitely do get people calling us who we know would benefit from the medical marijuana, but they don’t fall into those 21 slots,” said Dr. Spaar.

Dr. Spaar then added how well established it is that cannabis can help those who suffer from mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. This statement is basically preaching to the choir for cannabis supporters, but might be important for those people who still hold some level of skepticism towards the plant medicine.

“Anxiety is a common one,” Spaar said. “It’s pretty well-established that marijuana is very helpful for treating anxiety, but it is not a qualifying condition, and so if they don’t have another qualifying condition to go along with it, we can’t offer it to them, which is extremely frustrating. In particular, I would really love to see anxiety, depression, and ADHD added.”

Dr. Spaar and Dr. Rick join a growing number of medical professionals nationwide who believe that doctors should have the ability to decide which patients are prescribed medical cannabis, not legislators. Hopefully we will see some changes soon – not just in Pennsylvania – and doctors will have that ability, instead of having to follow a restrictive state-mandated list of qualifying conditions.