Pennsylvania health department sues to keep medical marajuana approval process secret

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is suing Spotlight PA after the publication requested information about how patients obtain medical marijuana cards, PBS affiliate WHYY reported Feb. 16.

Spotlight PA sought information under the state's open records law, noting it was seeking information about how many physicians approve patients for medical marajuana and for what cause. The health department is trying to withhold that information.

The state Office of Open Records gave the health department 30 days to hand over the records, but the department refused. The department is appealing to the Commonwealth Court, a process that likely will delay access to the records, the report said.

Hundreds of thousands of patients are approved by physicians for medical marijuana cards and there are more than 1,800 physicians in the program, according to the report. The concealed information on how and why approvals are made could reveal outliers who are breaking or bending the state's laws, the report said. 

Withholding that information makes it harder to understand how the medical marijuana law is working, Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, of which Spotlight PA is a member, told WHYY.

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