The names of the panelists who awarded the first round of the state's medical marijuana permits must be released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday.

The department had sought to keep the identities a secret after a reporter for PennLive filed suit under the state's Right to Know Law.

An unknown number of panelists reviewed and scored hundreds of applications to grow and distribute medical marijuana before the state awarded 12 permits to grow and 27 permits to dispense the drug. Each permit has been valued at several million dollars.

The health department claimed that if it made the names public, the "information may expose the Review Panel to a plethora of of issues, including, but not limited to bribes, inducements, threats, harassment, and undue influence."

The department will appeal the Commonwealth Court decision to the state Supreme Court.

"The court's decision is important because we need to know if someone on the panel was related to a permit winner," said Judith Cassel, a Harrisburg cannabis attorney who has represented both permit winners and losers. "We need to know so we can ensure the integrity of the process and be assured it's not contaminated by inappropriate relationships."

April Hutcheson, spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said Thursday that releasing the identities would be "detrimental to the process."

"Making this list available, whether directly to those seeking permits or through the media, would increase special interests' attempts to influence the integrity of the process," she said. "This has consistently been the department's position since the program began. Since the application process, including review by this panel, is ongoing, we plan to maintain this position and appeal the decision."

The court's decision would release only the panelists names, not disclosure of applications' entire contents.