The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a draft version of temporary regulations Monday for state residents who are considering taking part in the state's medical marijuana program.
With so many qualifying conditions, an estimated two million Pennsylvanians may qualify to participate if the program begins in early 2018, which is the target.
To access medical cannabis, patients will need a recommendation letter signed by a medical professional who has officially registered with the program. Applicants with a history of drug use may participate in the marijuana program if their doctor approves. Each patient or caregiver will be required to pay a $50 fee before the Department of Health issues an identification card. Caregivers, but not patients, must pass a criminal-background check. It remained unclear on Monday how long the entire process would take.
According to the draft of the regulations, information collected about cardholders will be kept confidential. However, the Pennsylvania Justice Network — a consortium of 16 state law enforcement agencies — will be able to check with the Department of Health to validate a card if there is a question about its authenticity. The network, which won't have access to the patient records or the patient registry, will notify the state if a cardholder is convicted of a drug offense after being approved as a patient or a caregiver.
The regulations come with limits. Cardholders won't be allowed to possess types of medical marijuana that are not listed on the patient certification, though it is uncertain how that will be enforced.
The regulations also could be redrafted. Patients and caregivers have until Oct. 2 to review the temporary document and offer comment or criticism. After the state grants approval, the Department of Health will roll out the registry system gradually, "testing it to be sure it's user friendly," department spokeswoman April Hutcheson said. She said the department hoped to have the patient registry up and running by the end of October.
More than 200 physicians have signed up for the program and registered for the continuing education program to become approved practitioners, Hutcheson said.