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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

First Ever State-Supported Medical Marijuana Research

Medical Marijuana ResearchLast week, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to allow certain schools in the commonwealth to partner with medical marijuana companies to research the effects of cannabis on various conditions.  Act 16 of 2016, the Medical Marijuana Act, grants as many as eight health systems, defined as a medical school with an acute-care hospital, to each pair with a private company to determine the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of cannabis products in treating specific diseases. 

Historically, marijuana has not been well-studied in the United States because of its federal status as a Schedule 1 drug with no medical benefits making it illegal.  Not to mention that very few doctors nationwide have access to medical cannabis.  Although other states that have legalized medical marijuana have considered research programs, all have dropped the idea because federal funding for universities and hospitals could be put in jeopardy.

The difference between Pennsylvania’s law and other states is that those states have structured their programs so that all marijuana operations would be on school campuses.  Approved Commonwealth marijuana companies on the other hand will grow the cannabis and sell it at their dispensaries as well as enlist the patients for the studies.  Patients will be responsible for purchasing the experimental medicine which is unlike traditional medical drug studies. The medical schools will then be the ones to analyze the data.

Act 16 specifies that research must be related to treating one of the serious medical conditions officially approved for medical marijuana under the law.  These cover 21 conditions, including four being added upon recommendation of the state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.  The four are opioid-use disorder, neurodegenerative diseases, terminal illness and dyskinetic and spastic movement disorder. 

The eight state-supported research centers authorized by the Pennsylvania Health Department include:  Drexel University College of Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Perelman School of Medicine, all in Philadelphia; and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie. 

The department plans to provide applications to become a clinical registrant later this week with a submission deadline of July 12.  It is expected to take about nine months to a year from the time applications are submitted until the time the growers/processors are supplying medical marijuana.  Once the centers are affiliated with an approved and operational clinical registrant, they will be permitted to move forward with starting research. 

Since inception of the medical marijuana program, over 37,000 patients have registered to participate in the program with more than 16,000 residents receiving the product at a Pennsylvania dispensary. 

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, May 28 in observance of Memorial Day.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, May 29.

Growing Greener Program

Growning GreenerGrowing Greener Plus, Pennsylvania’s most widely recognized environmental grant program, opened last week with more than $20 million available to municipalities and nonprofit organizations for projects to improve water quality in their community or statewide.

Grants are available for projects addressing nonpoint source pollution from farms, urban stormwater runoff, and acid mine drainage (AMD) at abandoned coal mine sites. Projects may be small or large, addressing an individual site or creating an initiative for an entire watershed, for multiple counties, or statewide.

Last year, more than 100 grants awarded ranged from $2.9 million to Schuylkill County Conservation District for Swatara Creek floodplain restoration, to decrease flood levels and increase wildlife habitat, to $16,500 to Warrington Township in Bucks County for a stormwater retention basin.

County and municipal governments, county conservation districts, watershed organizations, and other organizations that work to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s environment are eligible to apply.

For the second year, emphasis will be placed on projects in the 43 Pennsylvania counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff in streams and rivers.

Projects that are in designated environmental justice communities or Act 47 financially distressed municipalities, projects that increase job opportunities and foster sustainable businesses, and projects that help regulated stormwater communities meet their minimum control measures will also be prioritized.

Funds are available for BMPs, such as streambank fencing, streambank forest buffers, animal heavy use area protection; wetland creation or enhancement; AMD treatment systems or land reclamation at abandoned coal mine sites; projects included in a Clean Water Act Section 319 Watershed Implementation Plan; and AMD projects located in Qualified Hydrologic Units.

Applications will be accepted through 4 p.m. on July 13. Please apply online at the Department of Community and Economic Development e-grants portal which can be accessed by clicking here or visiting

Did You Know…

Did you know that Growing Greener Plus has provided almost $300 million for more than 2,100 projects statewide since its inception?

Local Schools Awarded Funds Through School Breakfast Initiative

cafeteriaLast week Governor Wolf announced the disbursement of $900,000 of funding through the School Breakfast Initiative and I am pleased that four school districts from the 42nd Senatorial District have been awarded funds – Avonworth High School, Chartiers Valley Middle School, Myrtle Elementary School in the Keystone Oaks School District, and Reserve Elementary in the Shaler Area School District.

I was happy to support this important program in last year’s budget.  The goal of the School Breakfast Initiative is to help more children start their day with a healthy meal.  Schools will use the grants to increase and sustain breakfast participation by 20 percent by implementing or expanding alternative breakfast options such as grab-n-go breakfast, breakfast in the classroom, and second chance breakfast during study halls.

Currently, over 3,000 schools in Pennsylvania report that they offer breakfast but fewer than half of those schools offer alternative serving methods.  Only 50 percent of students who receive free or reduced lunch also receive breakfast.

For more information on the School Breakfast Initiative please click here or visit and type “School Breakfast Initiative” in the Search tab. 

Save the Date – Flu Shot Clinic/Drug Take Back

Flu ShotI will be hosting my annual Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Thursday, September 20 from 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline.  American HealthCare Group will be providing free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card.  Make sure to bring your card with you.  Light refreshments will be served.

Additionally, this year, Deputy Sheriff Joe Cirigliano will be on hand to collect any unused, unwanted, or expired medications as part of Allegheny County Sheriff Bill Mullen’s Project D.U.M.P. initiative.  This program allows residents to bring any unused, unwanted or expired medications so they can be properly disposed.  I’m thrilled to have the Sheriff’s Office participating and am grateful for their efforts in combatting the heroin and opioid epidemic and preventing addiction and overdose.

Attendees can also visit with Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy at their “Ask the Pharmacist” table and have questions answered on medications and receive blood pressure screenings. Representatives from PA APPRISE will also be on hand to counsel visitors about Medicare options with several other organizations scheduled to participate.  I will update you throughout the summer. 

Woods Run Project – Meeting

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA)The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is hosting a community meeting on Monday, June 4 to discuss the Mairdale Avenue stormwater project in Riverview Park.  The meeting will take place at Perry High School, located at 3875 Perrysville Avenue, from 6 – 8 p.m.

During the meeting, the project team will share selected design alternatives moving towards final design and the unique ways each will manage stormwater.  Attendees will have an opportunity to comment and provide input for additional changes.  These design alternatives are based on input from an earlier community meeting. 

For more information on this project please visit the Woods Run project page on PWSA’s website or visit

Crime Watch Seminar

The Ingram and Crafton Community Crime Watches are hosting a Crime Watch Seminar focusing on Identity Theft tonight at 7 p.m.  The Seminar is being held at the Ingram Borough Community Room, located at 40 W. Prospect Avenue.  The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office will present the program.

thunderstormsFontana Fact

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, there are an estimated 16 million thunderstorms worldwide each year, and at any given moment, there are roughly 2,000 thunderstorms in progress. There are about 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the U.S. alone.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By Appointment
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library | Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
By Appointment
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA)