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Advocacy group co-founder tapped for medical marijuana post

Margarita Cambest
505-5439/@ritacambest
  • Latrisha “Lolly” Bentch, co-founder and former administrator of the advocacy group Campaign For Compassion, is now the state's patient liaison.
  • The position was created as part of the state's medical marijuana program.

The Department of Health  hired a central Pennsylvania woman to fill a position created by Pennsylvania’s move to create and regulate its medical marijuana industry.

Lolly Bentch, of Harrisburg, wipes a tear from her eyes as she speaks before Gov. Tom Wolf signs the medical cannabis bill into law in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Latrisha “Lolly” Bentch, co-founder and former administrator of the advocacy group Campaign For Compassion, is the state's  patient liaison. She will be "a crucial link between the state and patient families," according to Department of Health spokeswoman April Hutcheson.

“The patient liaison position will provide the crucial connection between the patient community and us as regulators,” according to a shared statement from Secretary Teresa Murphy. "Latrisha's unique experience gives her the perfect background to make sure the voices of our patients and caregivers are heard.”

Gov. Tom Wolf, center, flanked by Lolly Bentch, left, and Dana Ulrich, both mothers of young children suffering from epilepsy, signs the medical cannabis bill into law in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Bentch, of Camp Hill, spent years advocating for medical marijuana on behalf of her 9-year-old daughter Anna, who suffers from intractable seizures, and other families who want to use the drug to treat a variety of medical ailments.

BLOG: DOH promotes from within for marijuana director

Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., have regulated medical marijuana. Under Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Program, signed into law in April, commonwealth residents with physician-certified medical conditions will be able to obtain medical marijuana at state-approved dispensaries with a permit.

The statute allows the use of cannabis in the treatment of 17 medical conditions, including autism, cancer, Parkinson's disease and seizures. The department have released temporary regulations for dispensaries and a request for public comment on the implementation of the program.

Lolly Bentch, of Harrisburg, hugs Gov. Tom Wolf before he signs the medical cannabis bill into law in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"We were very disappointed to lose Lolly at Campaign For Compassion,” said co-founder Cara Salemme, of York. “She was at the Capitol every day lobbying, talking and making contacts and connections. I think the position is very well deserved, but we’re going to miss her.”

Bentch started Oct. 3 and will make $53,600, according to the DOH.