Recommending Cannabis in Pennsylvania
Before a doctor can prescribe medical cannabis, he or she must have a valid license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania, register with DOH, complete a four-hour course about medical cannabis, and report back to DOH if a patient no longer needs access to medical cannabis as a result of improved health or death. The physician must certify that the patient is under the doctor’s ongoing care for a qualifying medical condition and that the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical marijuana. The doctor will then provide a copy of the certification to DOH and to the patient.
A physician is prohibited from the following in connection with a certification:
- Conduct an exam using telemedicine technology
- Receive pay from or refer patients to marijuana businesses
- Conduct an exam at a location where medical marijuana is sold
- Have a direct or indirect economic interest in a cultivator or dispensary
- Advertise in a cultivation center or dispensary
- Help patients obtain marijuana or offer advice on usage
Because Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program is not fully operational yet, a full list of medical marijuana doctors is not available yet. But DOH will explore ways to provide all necessary information on its website.
As of today, the Federal Government has not punished any physicians who have prescribed medical marijuana. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that doctors cannot be punished — or even investigated — solely for recommending medical marijuana, because doing so is protected free speech (Conant v. Walters). The U.S. Supreme Court let the decision stand.
Pennsylvania’s law explicitly protects doctors from punishment. It states that a physician is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege including civil penalty or disciplinary action, solely for his or her participation in the program. (Sec. 2103 (A)(3))