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City Council Committee Reveals Employment Risks For Medical Marijuana Users

By Pat Loeb


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania has made medical marijuana legal, but it can’t completely shield people who take it from consequences. A city council committee hearing last week highlighted potential problems for patients.

Pennsylvania law says a person can’t lose their job because they’re certified to use medical marijuana, but attorney George Voegele told the panel it also doesn’t require an employer to accommodate marijuana use.

“Zero tolerance policies are still okay,” Voegele said. “You can discipline or terminate an employee for failing a drug test and, of course, you can still discipline an employee who’s under the influence.”

Veogele says that may change if challenged in court, but some jobs, such as truck drivers, regulated by federal law, would still not be protected and the state sets aside a number of jobs users can’t do.

“No one wants someone using medical marijuana driving their children’s school bus,” he said, “or up in a cherry picker working on power lines.”

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker was distressed to learn of the employment risks.

“The notion that someone suffering from PTSD or cancer could lose their job because they are a medical marijuana patient was devastating,” Parker said.

She hopes for a public awareness campaign for employers and workers.


Read the full article HERE

Rothman Institute in Philly will study medical marijuana for pain

by Sam Wood


The Rothman Institute at Jefferson, one of the nation’s largest orthopedic practices, announced Thursday it would collaborate on a study to investigate the benefits of medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic and acute pain.

 Rothman will work with Franklin BioScience, a Colorado-based cannabis grower and retailer. Franklin BioScience expects to open a medical marijuana dispensary in late-March called Beyond Hello in Bristol Township, Bucks County.

“There’s a link between access to cannabis and reduced opioid overdoses,” said physician Ari Greis, a Rothman pain management specialist who will oversee the research. “We’re all being cautiously optimistic that it could be helpful to some of our patients. Because we’re leaders in orthopedic medicine, we feel this is an opportunity we can’t pass up.”

The announcement comes just after the state’s medical marijuana program officially launched last week with the first legal sales of cannabis occurring at six dispensaries. Dozens more — which only will sell concentrates, vape pens, tinctures and pills —  are expected to open within the next several months.

More than 17,000 patients have registered to participate in Pennsylvania’s marijuana program. About 4,000 of those have been certified by a physician. The agency says about 380 physicians are approved to write recommendations.

The Rothman project will explore whether medical marijuana can be an effective alternative to opioids for pain management.

Researchers plan to enroll patients with lower back and leg pain brought on by sciatica, or compression of spinal nerves. Greis said he received approval for the observational study two weeks ago from Jefferson’s Institutional Review Board. The research will be funded by Franklin Bioscience.

“Sciatica is an unbelievably common problem and people try to avoid surgery for it,” Greis said. Opioids are a common treatment. Until the study design is complete, it’s unclear how long the study will be conducted or how many patients will be involved.

“We have an obvious opioid crisis that is affecting our communities, and despite everyone’s awareness of the problem there hasn’t been a really obvious way to deal with it,” Greis said. “A lot of patients have tried so many things — various medications, physical therapies, injections and surgeries — with little relief. Now we have a new option. And it warrants looking into.”

Some physicians at Rothman are so convinced of the potential of cannabis to supplant or complement opioids that they have invested in Franklin Biosciences, Greis said.

For the moment, Greis is the only Rothman physician approved by the state Department of Health to certify patients to participate in the state medical marijuana program. Because he can certify patients, Greis is barred by the state from investing in any cannabis business.


Read the full article HERE.

Shrinking Supply For Growing Demand: Philly Down To 3 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia has lost one of its medical marijuana dispensaries and three others that were supposed to be operating by now have postponed their openings. Medical marijuana won’t be available in the city until at least March.

Terra Vida had obtained a permit for a location in Mt. Airy, but founder Chris Visco says, after a zoning fight with city council members, she’s relocating to Chester County.

“We searched throughout the entire city, everywhere we could think of looking,” Visco said. “There was a location on City Line Avenue that we thought would be great, but there was no way to have any private access to our space for delivery of product.”

Visco says between the state rule that deliveries have to be made out of public view, and a city ordinance restricting locations near day care providers, there’s nowhere left in the city to put a dispensary.

Terra Vida’s departure leaves three providers. One is being sued so its future is up in the air. The other two, Integrative Wellness on Frankford Avenue and Holistic Pharma on Krewstown Road, got extensions for opening, as did the other 52 dispensaries statewide. Holistic founder Keith Morgan says growers are only now getting started.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program.

“It means there’s going to be safe and effective access to a new medicine that can help (patients) in a wide variety of ways,” said Victor Guadagnino, the company’s co-founder and chief of business development. He said the company sees the drug as a way patients can take a more active role in their own health care.


Nine entities have been approved to grow and process medical marijuana, and their products are expected to be available to patients in the coming four months.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the approval is good news for patients and their caregivers.

“We are one step closer to providing medical marijuana to patients with serious medical conditions who desperately need this medication,” the Democratic governor said.

Guadagnino, who lives in New York City, said the dispensary in Bethlehem will open this month for educational workshops and registration assistance, but he does not expect to have the product available until mid-February.

The Bethlehem dispensary, which Guadagnino said is part of their multimillion-dollar medical marijuana investment in the region, will start with four or five employees and grow based on patient demand. The company also plans to eventually open two other dispensaries in the Lehigh Valley.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said officials expect more dispensaries to open in the coming weeks.

The announcement of the first dispensary came as the U.S. Justice Department said federal prosecutors are being given more latitude to pursue criminal charges involving marijuana. In response, Wolf vowed to do whatever he can “to protect Pennsylvania patients.”

A 2016 state law legalized medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions, including AIDS, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.


Read the full article HERE.

Bethlehem company gets green light to dispense medical marijuana

A Bethlehem facility has been given the full green light to start dispensing medical marijuana to qualifying patients as soon as the drug is available in coming months, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

GuadCo LLC’s dispensary, Keystone Canna Remedies, at 1309 Stefko Blvd. is the Lehigh Valley’s first medical marijuana operation to secure final approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“It means there’s going to be safe and effective access to a new medicine that can help (patients) in a wide variety of ways,” Victor Guadagnino, the company’s co-founder and chief of business development, told The Associated Press. “We really do look at medical marijuana as a new platform to reintegrate the patient back into their own health care.”

It may take about four months for licensed growers to get the medicine to Keystone Canna, which then could treat patients with state-issued medical marijuana identification cards, health officials said.

Read the full article HERE

More than 10,000 sign up for Pa. Medical marijuana program


More than 10,000 patients have registered to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, according to the latest figures released this week by the state Department of Health.

“Patients have started to receive their medical marijuana identification cards, bringing us one step closer to getting medication to patients in the next four months,” said Pa. Gov Tom Wolf said. “Our grower/processors are well underway, and our dispensaries are approaching the point where they will be ready to open their doors. Patients who are desperately waiting for this medication will soon find relief.”

Of the 10,135 patients who have registered to participate in the medical marijuana program, 1,188 have been certified by a physician to participate.

To date, the Department of Health has approved eight grower/processors to begin operations:

  • Cresco Yeltrah, Jefferson County;
  • Franklin Labs, Berks County;
  • GTI Pennsylvania, Montour County;
  • Ilera Healthcare, Fulton County;
  • Pennsylvania Medical Solutions, Lackawanna County;
  • PurePenn LLC, Allegheny County;
  • Standard Farms, Luzerne County; and
  • Terrapin Investment Fund, Clinton County.

Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said the remaining four grower/processors selected to participate n the program are in the final stages of the inspection process.

“At this time” she said, “we do not foresee any issues with the remaining facilities that would prevent them from becoming operational.”

In June, the state issued permits for 27 medical marijuana dispensary permits. Each permit holder gains can open up to three storefront locations.

The health department also announced 550 physicians have registered to participate in the program and of those, nearly 250 have completed the training to become certified practitioners.

The state recently approved the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, to serve as a fifth continuing education provider for the medical marijuana program.

Read the full article HERE