Pennsylvania starts signing up patients for medical marijuana

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Medical marijuana could be available for sale in Pennsylvania as soon as this spring.

Wednesday, the state unveiled its patient and caregiver registry, the first step users must take before getting a prescription.

The Health Department said a pilot program was successful, leading the agency to start taking applications to participate in the system.

Patients should be able to obtain the medication within six months.

"I live a more comfortable life with cannabis use," said Adrienne Leasa, who lives with HIV.

She said marijuana has helped with her symptoms and depression.


"There is so much hope in cannabis," Leasa said.

HIV is one of 17 conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment in Pennsylvania.

Some others include autism, cancer, Parkinson's, MS, post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures.

"In 2013, Ryan was having over 400 seizures a day," said Diana Briggs, a Westmoreland County mother who has been advocating for medical marijuana on behalf of her son.

She's been getting medical marijuana legally for him from out of state.

"We are now giving Ryan the quality of life we hoped and dreamed for, but we never and truly imagined," Briggs said. "Today our family rejoices to getting one step closure to implementing this medical cannabis program."

The medical marijuana industry could be good for the local economy.

Growing operations will soon get underway in McKeesport. The city of Greensburg recently approved plans to open a dispensary, which is where patients get the drug.

The Health Department also announced more than 100 physicians have been approved to participate, a list that's expected to grow.

Doctor participation is considered critical to the program's success, as they must certify the patients' illnesses before the patients can obtain an identification card from the Health Department.

A 2016 state law gave people under a doctor's care access to medical marijuana if a physician says they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.


Those conditions include AIDS, autism, cancer, chronic pain and Crohn's disease.

The law permits marijuana as pills, oils, vapor or liquid but not in plant form, and patients may not grow their own.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.