The advisory board formed to help guide changes to Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program voted Tuesday to reject an application to add insomnia to the state's list of qualifying medical conditions.

But several members of the board also left the possibility open that they would be more willing to consider it as an adults-only option.

The 15-member board, which serves the Department of Health, voted 7-4 to reject the application Tuesday.

While medical marijuana's benefits outweigh its potential risks for children suffering from "severe" conditions, such as intractable seizures, board member Dr. Bill Trescher said he had "grave concerns" about enabling the same course for with children with insomnia, saying regular use can have "long-term, debilitating" mental health effects on a young person that could otherwise be avoided.

"I have great reservations and great concerns about the effects of this substance on the developing brain," said Trescher, who serves as Division Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Others agreed, although the board's patient advocate appointee, Molly Robertson, said she would like to see insomnia added to the list to enable medical marijuana's potential benefits to be studied at a research level.

Patients using the substance for other qualifying conditions have reported has enabled them to better manage their insomnia.

Fellow members said they were concerned about approving the condition because there was no clear guidance on the level of insomnia that would qualify for medical marijuana.

Some levels don't rise to the level of a "serious medical condition," the committee reviewing the application reported to Secretary of Health Rachel Levine.

The board met through a web-conference Tuesday.

They also tabled a request to add "traumatic brain injuries" as another condition after discussing the idea, with some members saying there did not seem to be enough clarity on the types of injuries that would qualify as a traumatic brain injury under the state's "qualifying conditions" list.

Sarah Boateng, the executive deputy for the state's Physician General, said an expert in the brain injury field could join the group for their February meeting to discuss the matter.

In Pennsylvania, only patients suffering from a set list of 23 conditions – among them, cancer, Crohn's disease and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – can obtain a medical marijuana card necessary to purchase cannabis-containing products.

In cases where qualifying condition requests are rejected, applicants can petition the board in writing to reconsider the decision and make a renewed case for the medical condition's inclusion, Levine said.

If rejected, the condition cannot be considered for another year, she said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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