If Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program is to succeed, it will need the participation of hundreds — if not thousands — of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists willing to provide cannabis recommendations for patients.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is planning to release the final regulations this week (before July 28) spelling out the rules for professionals. To prepare physicians and others with questions about the science behind the medical use of cannabis, Thomas Jefferson University and Temple University are joining forces to present a "Medical Cannabis Education Tour" around the state.
"It's a primer for health providers who might be on the fence," said Kevin Provost, CEO of Greenhouse Ventures, which is organizing the events. "We'll also address what doctors, nurses, and pharmacists need to understand about how the human body is wired to receive this medicine."
Ward runs one of Temple's five labs focusing on cannabinoid research and is funded by the Department of Defense. Last week, she said her tour presentation will focus on the evidence for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain conditions. She will also touch on the clinical and pre-clinical evidence for using cannabis as medicine and discuss possible drug interactions and concerns about marijuana's impact on psychiatric diseases.
At Tuesday's session in Philadelphia, Charles Pollack, who leads Jefferson's Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, will discuss what the state law covers and what health conditions will qualify for treatment with cannabis products. He is not scheduled to participate in the five other regional programs.
The Department of Health says the state is on track to start providing cannabis oils, tinctures, and lotions to patients in 2018. The growers are required to be operational by Christmas week.
But the heart of the seminars is getting doctors to buy in to the program
"One of my concerns is that many in our medical community may not be taking this seriously," Ward said. "We may struggle with getting physicians on board."
It's a valid concern. In New York and New Jersey, the relative shortage of participating doctors has hobbled medical marijuana programs. Patients have struggled to find providers who can get them enrolled in the programs.
"In some states there are so many patients who want the medical marijuana badly, and they can't find physicians to recommend it," Ward said. "In states like New York, there are also way too few dispensaries."
At Temple, Ward said the level of enthusiasm varies widely. Some physicians feel "very excited" about the program, she said. "But others still feel there isn't enough evidence."
Though designed for medical professional, the seminars are open to the public. Admission is $55.
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