Pennsylvania has taken a huge step forward in ensuring those who need medical marijuana the most are able to receive it. Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy recently announced that applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Letter are now available. The Safe Harbor Letter will allow parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to apply for permission to administer medical marijuana for their children who suffer from debilitating seizures and other serious medical conditions.
“Children with serious medical conditions and those who care for them can begin to experience an increased quality of life,” remarked Dr. Murphy. “It’s very important to remember that approved Safe Harbor Letters should always be carried with individuals whenever medical marijuana is being transported and administered outside of the home.”
Applying For A Safe Harbor Letter
The application process can be completed online and the form is available through the Pennsylvania Health Department‘s website. Individuals without access to a computer should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for assistance in completing the form. Those wishing to apply for the letter will need to secure certain documents before beginning the application process. All applicants must possess a picture ID. Legal guardians will need to provide guardianship papers. Likewise, spouses must submit a marriage certificate and caregivers will need to include proof of caregiver status. Additionally, applicants should complete a background check, as well as, obtain a completed Safe Harbor Letter Physician Form from the minor’s primary licensed doctor.
The Safe Harbor Letter Comes With A Hitch
While the Safe Harbor Letter is intended to serve as government approval for Pennsylvania dispensaries to administer medical marijuana to minors, the temporary regulations have limited authority. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Although cannabis may be downgraded in the near future, The U.S. Department of Justice retains authority to enforce civil and criminal laws in relation to marijuana use and possession. Thus, individuals using or possessing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania run the risk of being criminally charged by the federal government.
Many PA parents have already voiced their frusterations on the issue. Dana Kershner of Quakertown, PA uses medical oils derived from marijuana to treat her 6-year old daughter with epilepsy. According to Keshner, her daughter suffered from scores of seizures daily until she started applying medical marijuana oil. The oil brought about instantaneous and prolonged relief which has allowed her to begin kindergarten. Commenting on the federal regulation, Dana said, “I’ll be damned if a law is going to stop me from saving my child. The fact that it’s still a Schedule 1 drug is just a sin.” Dana isn’t the only one outraged by the current problems facing the use of medical marijuana. Dana joins many others who have voiced the similar feelings toward the status of medical marijuana.
Moving Forward With The PA Medical Marijuana Program
Of course, Pennsylvania still hasn’t legalized the sale of medical marijuana which means residents who need to obtain medical marijuana must do so out of state for the time being. The Department of Health is currently working on implementing a medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania. Temporary regulations to get growers, processors, dispensaries, and laboratories up and running are expected to be issued towards the end of this calendar year. Eventually the state will license 25 growers and processors. The act will also allow for as many as 50 dispensaries with up to three locations each. Pennsylvania governor, Tom Wolf signed the medical marijuana program into law back in April, but complete implementation of the program is expected to take somewhere between 18 and 24 months.
For now, the Safe Harbor Letter serves as a concrete step in the right direction. Questions about the medical marijuana program can be emailed to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov. Additional information is also available on the Department of Health’s website.