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We're releasing a trove of marijuana data

Plus, Pa. could see another big hospital merger.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023
Marijuana transparency, hospital merger, governor polling, transit law, new police academy, steel support, and drained doctors. It's Wednesday.
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Spotlight PA is publicizing anonymized records of more than 1 million Pennsylvania medical marijuana certifications as part of an ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability in the state program.

The news organization won access to the data last year after the state sued to keep it secret, and it was the basis of an investigation earlier this year into trends around who's receiving medical marijuana cards and why.

The records are now available to download.

Read Spotlight PA’s full report: GET THE DATA: Spotlight PA makes info on why patients qualify for medical marijuana publicly available

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA first requested the certification records in June 2021 while reporting on the overdose death of a Bucks County man who was wrongfully denied addiction treatment funding because of his medical marijuana card

A later investigation offered the first comprehensive look at how a decision by the administration of former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to add anxiety disorders as a qualifying condition transformed the state’s medical marijuana program and, in the eyes of some, made it possible for virtually anyone to get a medical marijuana card.

For others, like patient advocate Diana Briggs, the newly available data reminds her of the aid the program gave her family. Briggs’ 23-year-old son Ryan has suffered from seizures his entire life, and medical marijuana has helped. She said it is “really emotional to look at these numbers.”

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“We didn't execute. I don't think we were committed enough, you know. Just gotta turn it around.”

—Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts after the team's Monday night loss to the Seahawks. 

European starling on a V-22 Osprey rotor blade at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, via Don N. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.BIG HEALTH: Thomas Jefferson University is planning to merge with Lehigh Valley Health Network, LehighValleyNews.com reports. The deal isn't final, but if it goes through, the resulting system of 30 hospitals would stretch from Scranton to South Jersey and would be the second-biggest in the commonwealth, behind only UPMC. This isn't the only big merger (potentially) happening in Pennsylvania. California-based Kaiser Permanente's acquisition of Geisinger Health is currently under regulatory review.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SEPTA SPAT: Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner is criticizing state lawmakers for creating a new office for a special prosecutor who would oversee crimes committed on Philly public transit. BillyPenn reports the DA and other lawmakers have different interpretations of the law — Krasner says it could remove most of the city from his jurisdiction, but members of the General Assembly disagree. Krasner expects a court challenge. 

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
CONTROLLER CRUELTY: Washington County's controller is facing calls to resign, according to the Associated Press, after being arrested at her office last week and charged with animal cruelty for allegedly neglecting her dog. Republican April Sloane had adopted the dog in 2021, and brought him along on her winning campaign that year. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLLING SHAPIRO: A survey of 800 Pennsylvania voters revealed an overall positive view of Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro as his first year in office comes to a close, PennLive (paywall) reports. The statewide poll, from the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, found that 56% of voters said they "strongly" or "somewhat" approved of his performance — though that is down slightly from the 61% of polled voters who said the same in last quarter's survey. 
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DOG-TIRED: Students at Penn Vet are telling administrators that they are badly overworked and that it's negatively affecting animals in their care, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer (paywall). In a letter to the administration, 65 students in their final "clinical" year of school said they routinely worked 100-hour weeks — 20 more than the Student American Veterinary Medical Association's recommended cap. 
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POLICE ACADEMY: Officials broke ground this week on new facilities in a planned modernization of the commonwealth's police academy, according to ABC27. State police say the current academy was built for much smaller (and all male) classes.

YOGURT DEAL: Philly-based La Colombe coffee shop chain is contemplating next steps after being acquired by yogurt company Chobani. WHYY reports that meanwhile, cafes in the company's home city are humming. 

STEEL STATEMENTS: News of the U.S. Steel acquisition has drawn statements from Gov. Shapiro and Democratic U.S. Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey promising to protect jobs.

FREE MAN: A York County man has left prison after 20 years, following a new trial in which he pled guilty to evidence tampering in exchange for the dismissal of murder and homicide charges. 

SEIU CEASEFIRE: SEIU 668, a union that represents nearly 20,000 mostly public sector workers in Pennsylvania, called for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

S M A C O I U U L R 

Yesterday's answer: Coordination

Congrats to our daily winners: Jody A., Don H., Bob C., Susan N., Stacy S., Vicki U., Jon W., Tracy S., Carol S., Rick W., Elaine C., Richard A,. Kimberly D., Becky C., Daniel S,. WB Z., Dennis M., Rena Z., Janet S., Craig E., Daniel A., Wendy A., Alan B., Kimberly B., Karen W., Starr B., and Ada M.
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