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Scant evidence for Pa.'s top medical pot condition

Plus, it's Election Day in Pa.'s 27th Senatorial District.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Cannabis condition, shutoff study, election day, SNAP shrink, official dispute, Houck verdict, solo architect, and the space house returns.

When Pennsylvania added anxiety to its list of approved medical marijuana conditions in 2019, it opened the flood gates. 

Several years later, anxiety disorders are the leading reason Pennsylvanians get a medical marijuana card, a first-of-its-kind analysis of more than 1.1 million certification records obtained by Spotlight PA reveals. 

But medical evidence that cannabis helps treat anxiety is limited, and several other state programs have rejected it as a qualifying condition, citing the potential for some doses and forms to make anxiety worse. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: How anxiety came to dominate the big business of medical marijuana cards in Pennsylvania.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA shared its findings with more than 20 insiders and experts, as well as Pennsylvania's Department of Health, which oversees the medical marijuana program here.

A few believed — or openly wondered whether — a significant number of patients were seeking an anxiety disorder diagnosis as a pretext for recreational use, while others noted how common anxiety is. 

But a range of medical professionals — including supporters of cannabis as a treatment option for anxiety — say they are concerned about the rigors of the certification process here, with some providers of that service putting speed and volume over careful vetting and advice.

Read more: How Spotlight PA reported this story.


"Earlier this evening, I made a stop at the annual meeting of an event that I have attended in the past. It was a mistake. I apologize for attending." 

—Philly mayoral candidate Helen Gym apologizing for appearing at the Union League after protesting the venue for honoring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
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Springton Manor Farm, via @mar_sees_life. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

An icy creek surrounded by barren trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.NO SERVICE: A new study lists Pennsylvania utilities among those that shut off service to scores of customers for nonpayment while spending billions on stock buybacks, dividend payments to shareholders, and executive salaries, via The Guardian. FirstEnergy shut off power about 240,000 times across several states, including Pennsylvania, in 2022 for debts totaling about $25 million. Meanwhile, the company paid $2.3 billion in dividends. Find the full study here.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SPECIAL ELECTION: Voters in Pennsylvania's 27th state Senate District will head to the polls today to fill former state Sen. John Gordner's vacant seat. The GOP-leaning district includes all of Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, and Snyder Counties, and part of Luzerne. The candidates are: GOP state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver and Patricia Lawton, a speech pathologist from Columbia County.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BENEFIT CUTS: A pandemic-era SNAP or "food stamp" boost that upped benefit amounts across the board will end in March, and the base benefits that remain are set to shrink, via Lehigh Valley News. Additionally, state officials say between 5,000 and 20,000 Pennsylvania households will be unenrolled because Social Security pay is going up and SNAP thresholds did not rise proportionally.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.'SHELL GAME': School districts named by Republican State Auditor General Tim DeFoor as having participated in a legal "shell game" to justify repeated tax hikes argue the auditor's report lacks a full understanding of their budgeting process, per WITF. Other critics note his probe sidestepped public charter schools, something DeFoor declined to address when asked by WITF's Scott LaMar.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.NOT GUILTY: A Bucks County anti-abortion activist was found not guilty in federal court on Monday of assaulting a Planned Parenthood volunteer outside a Philadelphia abortion clinic. The Courier Times reports the case against Mark Houck, 48, which became a conservative rallying cry, focused on two encounters between the men on Oct. 13, 2021 and the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
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IN MEMORIAM: Retired seven-term Lycoming County state Rep. Garth Everett died on Saturday. It was his 69th birthday. PennLive reports Everett had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

INESCAPABLE: The Inquirer (paywall) reports the ubiquity of sports betting has turned the Eagles' meteoric season into a minefield for recovering problem gamblers. One said the marketing is relentless.

DESIGN SHOW: The first U.S. woman to have her own solo architecture practice was Philadelphia's Minerva Parker Nichols. Now, she's getting her own showcase at U Penn, via The Architect's Newspaper. 

FOREST TOUR: I got lost in this 15-minute video tour of Pennsylvania's only national forest, the Allegheny National Forest, which includes a mention of the Kinzua Dam betrayal of the Seneca Nation at the 3:30-minute mark.

SPACE HOUSE: A spaceship-themed home near Pittsburgh is back on the market, this time for $199,000. The current owners are relocating.

Unscramble and send your answer to We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Serpentine

Congrats to our daily winners: John P., Craig W., Jody A., Don H., Barbara F., Susan D., Susan N.-Z., Wendy A., Mary Jo J., Becky C., Jon W., Kimberly D., John F., Jane R., Bill S., Vicki U., Myles M., Elaine C., Connie K., Gina L., Kim C., Dianne K., Dennis M., James B., Rick A., Ada M., Joel S., Daniel M., Trudy W., and David W.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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