In a matter of weeks, the state of New York will officially launch its medical marijuana program. However, the word on the street is although state officials claim the “program remains on track for full implementation” by January 2016, only a slight few will actually have access to this medicine because there aren’t many doctors qualified to offer patient recommendations.
Before a patient can be approved to use medical marijuana in New York, they must first get a physician in which they have a “long-standing and bona fide relationship” to provide them with a certification. Yet, state rules require doctors interested in participating in the program to take a 4-hour online course at an expense of around $250 prior to even discussing weed as a treatment option.
The truth is, it is not the time or money that is preventing medical professionals from getting involved in medical marijuana – it’s federal law. Despite the rules surrounding any state program, it remains a violation of the Controlled Substances Act for a physician to “prescribe” marijuana, but they may offer recommendations for the medicine under protections provided by the First Amendment.
“People would love to start getting their recommendations, but the challenge is that the [doctors] educational course was just released,” Melissa Meyer, with the medical marijuana education resource Health MJ, told The Village Voice. “Patients are ready, but have to be able to get doctors on board.”
Over the summer, High Times found only a single doctor in the state of New York prepared to offer patient recommendations once the Health Department put its training program into place. By the time November rolled around, a month after the state officially launched its educational course, there was not any more clarity over how many physicians were expected to join the program. At this juncture, the Heath Department has refused to disclose any such data, only saying, “Practitioner education is an ongoing process with doctors continually signing up for and receiving training.”
Another problem is the limitations that come with the state’s approved conditions. The Compassionate Care Act only covers around 10 “severe, debilitating, or life-threatening” conditions, which include HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, ALS, spinal cord damage, IBS, neuropathies, and Huntington’s disease. Unfortunately, most general practitioners, the doctors most likely to have a “bona-fide” relationship with their patients, will remain powerless in providing recommendations because most of the ailments they treat are not covered under New York’s medical marijuana law.
As of now, there are no resources available to assist New York patients in finding doctors to provide them with recommendations. MarijuanaDoctors.com still only lists one in Brooklyn.
Optimistically speaking, however, the painstaking search for a medical marijuana doctor will give patients plenty of time to save up for their first purchase. Some of the latest reports indicate that high production costs will force the average patient to spend between $300-$600 per month.