PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Although medical marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf says that doesn’t mean it’s a pathway to full legalization.

“This is not a gateway to anything other than…reinforcing what we’ve always done and that is allow doctors, encourage doctors, to do what they can do to make the lives of their patients more comfortable,” Wolf told the “KDKA Morning News.”

It is expected to take 18-24 months to implement the medical marijuana programs, but Gov. Wolf says relief should start long before that.

“People should be able to start using these medicines quickly…If someone were to go to another state and buy it legally and bring it back for medicinal purposes, I kind of doubt that most prosecutors would pursue a case,” said Wolf.

A 2014 study done by researchers at the Philadelphia VA said that in states that have medical marijuana laws, there was a 24.8 percent lower opioid overdose death rate.

Gateway Medical Director Neil Capretto says the study is “tentative,” but hopes it turns out to be true.

“The majority of people who get involved with opioids and heroin start with prescription medicine. In the last 5,000 new heroin uses I’ve seen, 90 percent started with prescription pain medicine and to the extent that some individuals may use some of the ingredients in marijuana to help with pain that could potentially reduce them becoming addicted to opioids and then moving on to heroin.”

Dr. Capretto says they need to find help with the opioid problem in multiple areas with medical marijuana he is “open minded but cautious.”

Listen to the KDKA Morning News with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.

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