LUZERNE COUNTY -- More than 100 doctors have been approved as practitioners who are able to certify patients for medical marijuana. State health officials call it a huge development.
"We will get medical marijuana to patients within the next six months. We are one step closer, one step closer,” said Pennsylvania’s Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine.
So far, 14 doctors in northeastern and central Pennsylvania are on the list of approved practitioners, including Dr. Richard Blum, a doctor of internal medicine in Wilkes-Barre.
"I've actually had one of my patients who actually would qualify I suppose he's done his research, knows he has one of the conditions on the list and he'll get it when it becomes available,” said Dr. Blum.
The list of approved doctors is public.
Since word got out, Dr. Blum says his phone has been ringing. It is mostly people who are not his patients.
"I gather from the phone calls today that there is a demand out there and I don't imagine that I will be one of the doctors who will be interested in that demand. I'm more interested in helping patients that I know can be helped,” said Dr. Blum.
State health officials say medical marijuana is already growing in PA.
Standard Farms LLC in White Haven has just been approved to grow and process medical marijuana to give to patients starting next year.
"The gate has been opened and there is so much hope in cannabis,” said medical marijuana advocate Adrienne Leasa.
"There's real science to cannabis and there's real medical attributes to this plant,” said Senator Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County.
Dr. Blum has been practicing medicine for 40 years and never imagined he'd one day be certifying patients for use of medical marijuana.
"I don't think when I first started that I ever considered the notion of medical marijuana, but I mean in recent years, sure. It's available in other states and I know people who have really needed it and benefited from it and have moved to California for instance to take advantage of it,” he said.
It's important to note that approved doctors cannot write a prescription for medical marijuana. Instead, they will certify those patients to get medical marijuana at a dispensary. And while there will be pills and oils, creams, even medical marijuana that can be vaporized, none of it will be smokable.
The state plans to approve more doctors for medical marijuana certification.
To see the complete list of doctors and to learn how to register, click here.