Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has passed another milestone, with regulators announcing this week that more than 10,000 patients across the state have registered.
Nearly 1,200 of those patients have completed the required step of getting certified by a doctor participating in the program, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Those patients have started receiving the identification cards that will allow them to purchase medical marijuana once dispensaries start operating, which Gov. Tom Wolf said brings the state “closer to getting medication to patients in the next four months.”
“Our grower/processors are well underway, and our dispensaries are approaching the point where they will be ready to open their doors,” Wolf said. “Patients who are desperately waiting for this medication will soon find relief.”
The law will allow those with specific medical conditions who are certified by a participating doctor to access some forms of medical marijuana, including pills, oils, vapor and liquid.
Regulators have estimated that 1 million Pennsylvania residents have a condition covered under the law.
Regulators said the number of doctors registering to participate in the program has risen to 550, and nearly 250 of those have completed the process.
The number of participating doctors in Lancaster County has risen from three to six, with the additions being Dr. Ivan Shorter, Dr. Jeffrey Weber, and Dr. Robert Mathews.
The first instance was in 2006, when it reprimanded him and ordered him to pay a $4,000 fine for misdemeanor criminal charges of reporting an offense that did not occur and intent to defraud insurance, which court records show he pleaded guilty to.
The second was in 2011, when the board fined Mathews $5,000 and suspended his license for two years, then reinstated it immediately on conditions that he complete remedial education and be monitored by another surgeon.
In that case, he was accused of having sex with a woman he was treating and prescribing her drugs, including the opioid methadone, without properly examining her.
Department spokeswoman April Hutcheson said in an email this week that Mathews’ medical license is currently in good standing, with no actions against it.
Medical board records do not show disciplinary actions against any other participating doctors from Lancaster County.
Mathews currently has a solo practice in Millersville called First Team Institute, and he said Thursday that he believes medical marijuana “has the potential to relieve pain, and hopefully it will prove to be a much safer pain reliever than opioids.”
Mathews also said the proof for medical marijuana will be from “long-term, reliable studies,” and that he hopes the state’s program will result in those studies.
“We need some alternative ways of treating pain rather desperately,” he said.
Neighboring counties have similar numbers of doctors participating in the program, with the latest list showing three in Berks, 10 in Chester, six in Dauphin, three in Lebanon and five in York.
Regulators also announced this week that five more medical marijuana grower-processor operations have been approved to begin operations, bringing the total to eight of the 12 that were awarded permits.
One of the newly approved operations was Franklin Labs in Berks County, which is located in Reading at the former Pepsi bottling building. None of the other seven are near Lancaster.