Pennsylvania panel recommends sale of dry leaf medical marijuana

Patients moved a step closer Monday toward being able to purchase medical marijuana in its dry leaf or flower form — a cheaper alternative to the pills, oils, creams and other processed forms for sale at dispensaries.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board voted nearly unanimously to recommend the sale of dry leaf. Patients would not legally be permitted to smoke the dry leaf because smoking is forbidden under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, but they would be allowed to vaporize it.

Also Monday, the 13-member board recommended that people struggling with opioid addiction be allowed to use medical marijuana as a replacement therapy. In addition, it voted in favor of permitting people with any terminal illnesses, neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord damage to use medical marijuana.

Patients with 17 serious conditions qualify for medical marijuana treatment: Lou Gehrig’s disease, autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord damage, chronic pain, neuropathies and intractable seizures.

State Health Secretary Rachel Levine has up to a year to make a final decision on the board’s recommendations.

Luke Shultz, a Berks County patient advocate and advisory board member, said the ability to purchase medical marijuana in its flower form is important because a lot of patients with serious medical conditions struggle to afford the medicine in its more processed forms.

“Cost is always a concern,” he said. “Since dry leaf receives very little processing, it’s always going to be the least expensive product option.”

Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, applauded the board for its recommendation to sell dry leaf medical marijuana.

“It’s the most affordable kind of medical marijuana and the most effective in treating certain medical conditions and symptoms,” Leach said in a statement.

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