The Pennsylvania Department of Health approved two major changes to the state’s medical marijuana program on Monday.
First, the health department added opioid addiction to the list of conditions eligible for treatment with medicinal cannabis. With that decision, Pennsylvania joins New Jersey as the only two states that have done so.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine told local media that marijuana won’t be the first treatment for addiction to opioids. Instead, doctors will try more traditional therapies first.
“It’s important to note that medical marijuana is not a substitute for proven treatments for opioid use disorder,” Dr. 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.”
Opioid addiction has exacted a grim toll in Pennsylvania, particularly in the state’s largest city, Philadelphia. Officials attribute about 1,200 deaths in the city in 2017 to drug overdoses.
Cannabis Research Also Approved
The Department of Health also approved cannabis research licenses for five Philadelphia area medical schools on Monday. One topic researchers at the institutions want to study is the potential role of cannabis in addiction treatment.
The schools that received approval to study cannabis are Drexel University College of Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“The research component of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program sets it apart from the rest of the nation,” Pennsylvania Governor 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