Five Luzerne County physicians have received approval from the state to certify patients for its new medical marijuana program.
The five are Dr. Richard Blum, of Wilkes-Barre; Dr. John Brady, Luzerne; Dr. Matthew Kozicki, Nanticoke; Dr. Paul Tayoun, Hazleton; and Dr. Robert Dompkosky, Mountain Top.
The release Wednesday of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s list of approved physicians coincided with the announcement that patients and caregivers can register for the program expected to deliver medical marijuana by next year.
Blum, a Wilkes-Barre internist practicing for 40 years, said he underwent state-mandated training to participate.
“It’s just another thing I can offer patients which may prove to be valuable,” Blum said Thursday.
So far just one of his patients has asked about medical marijuana, but Blum said he received “one phone call an hour” after the registry went online.
Blum said he’s limiting his approved status strictly to his patients and not taking on new ones specifically for medical marijuana certification.
The law requires doctors to annually certify that patients who register with the state suffer from one of 17 serious medical conditions specified for treatment, including autism, cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and severe pain for which opiate therapy is ineffective. The certification then goes to the state that issues a medical marijuana identification card at a cost of $50 to be used at any approved dispensary.
Blum is hoping there will be a pharmacist at the dispensary who determines the exact composition of the medical marijuana to be used for treatment. It will be processed and available in pills, oils and ointments but not in leaf form for smoking.
“There’s going to be a lot of trial and error,” Blum said.
There are two dispensaries in Luzerne County — in Edwardsville and Wilkes-Barre. Additionally, the state Tuesday approved the only grower/processor of medical marijuana in the county to plant seeds and clones at its White Haven facility. Overall, the state in June issued 27 permits for dispensaries and 12 for grower/processors. Additional permits will be issued as the program is phased in.
Blum pointed out that he cannot yet write a prescription because marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law.
The state is proceeding with the program with the understanding that U.S. Department of Justice guidelines on enforcement will be honored and participants won’t be prosecuted.
The plant has not been approved as medicine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and therefore isn’t covered by health insurance. Patients will have to pay cash for the medical marijuana dispensed in the state.