Judge puts hold on Pennsylvania's plan for medical marijuana research

A judge put a hold on plans to implement the research provision of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law Tuesday, siding with dispensaries and growers who challenged the Health Department’s approach.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough issued a preliminary injunction that halted the agency’s regulations pertaining to handing out additional licenses to growers and dispensaries that partner for research with medical schools.

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McCullough said the regulations may go beyond provisions of the law and circumvent its detailed method of licensing growers and dispensaries.

“The regulations appear to be inconsistent with the legislative intent of Chapter 20, which was to permit distribution of medical marijuana for purposes of and in conjunction with research studies conducted jointly” with the medical schools, she wrote, adding the regulations seem “to require only a minimal commitment to research” in order to be licensed.

Health Department spokeswoman April Hutcheson said the agency is considering its legal options.

“Research is a vital component of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program to improve treatment options for patients suffering from serious medical conditions, including opioid-use disorder,” Hutcheson said. “The research program was rolled out in consultation with the sponsors of the original legislation and our approach was meant to ensure lower costs, more accessibility and ground-breaking treatments.”

Grower-producers and dispensaries have been selected and began selling to patients earlier this year under the 2016 law, but implementation of the unusual research component has been moving ahead more slowly.

The prospect of what they call “super permitees” that were not part of the highly competitive process being able to enter the commercial market prompted those already in the business to go to court.

Their lawyer, Judith Cassel, stressed that they are not opposed to research — that can go on without the special permits — but

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