A panel of Pennsylvania judges has ordered the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to reveal how many medical cannabis patients are enrolled in the program for opioid addiction treatment, Spotlight PA reports. The decision comes after the Office of Open Records (OOR) determined in September that Spotlight PA should have access to that information; however, the decision was challenged by the Wolf Administration.
Spotlight had sought the information for their coverage of a story of a Bucks County man who was wrongly denied addiction treatment funding because he was enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program. The man died a few weeks after the denial due to a drug overdose.
In the court opinion last week, the judges dismissed several arguments from the state Department of Health, which sought to keep the information private. Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, a senior judge, determined that the agency interpreted confidentiality rules too broadly and one of its arguments was “undeveloped” and “misses the point,” the report says.
Paula Knudsen Burke, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press who is representing Spotlight PA for free, called the ruling “an important step toward public access to aggregate data that will help Pennsylvanians better understand how the state’s medical marijuana program is operating.”
In the opinion, Leadbetter said that while some information is confidential under the state’s medical cannabis law, the information requested under Spotlight’s OOR request “is subject to disclosure.”
The Health Department could petition the state Supreme Court and ask for an appeal so it is not immediately clear whether the agency will release the information to Spotlight.
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