Pennsylvania opens medical marijuana registry for patients, caregivers

Once people sign up, it’s up to state-approved doctors to decide whether to grant a medical marijuana card.

 (Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

(Brennan Linsley/AP Photo, file)

For George Armstrong, a veteran with chronic pain and PTSD, marijuana is medicine.

The Chester County resident, along with other patients and caregivers, recently added his name to Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana registry. He said cannabis helps him more than stronger stuff, such as opioids.

“You know, I’m no longer getting six, seven prescriptions a month,” he said. “But guess who has to go out and buy his own medicine now?”

Armstrong is looking forward to getting his medical marijuana card and filling a prescription at a dispensary, which the state says will happen within the next six months. While he acknowledges that the state has been sticking to its various deadlines leading up to this point, he said he doesn’t like running the risk of being arrested for buying marijuana illegally.

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Rachel Levine, the state’s physician general and acting secretary of health, said she has empathy for people in Armstrong’s position.

“We are working as hard as we possibly can to have medical marijuana available in Pennsylvania as soon as we can. But we also have to … assure the safety and quality of the program and the product,” she said.

Once people sign up, it’s up to state-approved doctors to decide whether to grant a medical marijuana card. The state recommends that people talk to a doctor before signing up to make sure the medication is right for them.

“We have over 100 physicians that have registered for the medical marijuana program and taken the required continuing education about medical marijuana to be official practitioners under the program,” Levine said.

About 200 more doctors are in the pipeline to get approved. The state’s medical marijuana program should be up and running by May, officials said.

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