HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania regulators said Friday they will no longer make a new medical marijuana registry available on the state's computer system for law enforcement, making it less likely someone's participation will be flagged during federal gun-purchase background checks.
The Health Department said that when police need to verify that someone is in the program, they will instead have to rely on patients' medical marijuana ID cards.
"Medical marijuana is an important medication for Pennsylvanians suffering from serious medical conditions," said Health Department spokeswoman April Hutcheson. "It's essential that we treat medical marijuana as we would any other medication, and that we protect patient privacy in the process. As with any other health information, patient information regarding medical marijuana is not accessible to police."
More than 10,000 people have signed up for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, and the first dispensaries are expected to begin sales next month.
"Each medical marijuana ID card has an expiration date and a seal, which is used to verify authenticity. In the case that law enforcement needs to verify a patient's participation in the program, they will rely on the patient's medical marijuana ID card," Hutcheson said.
She said the change in policy was made "through a collaboration between the governor's office and agencies to address patient concerns."
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and those who use it are not legally able to possess guns or ammunition.
Some 38,000 law enforcement and public safety officials in the state use JNET , which includes criminal histories, warrant information and facial recognition information.
Pennsylvania allows medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions, including AIDS, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and Crohn's disease.