DOH Report: New York Should Expand Medical Marijuana Program

medical marijuana, MMJ
Photo by Lochfoot

While the medical marijuana law in New York is often considered one of the most restrictive in the nation, the state could soon be persuaded to expand the reach of the program based on recommendations outlined in a new report from the state’s leading health agency.

Earlier this week, the New York State Health Department published a two-year analysis of the Compassionate Care Act, starting from the time the bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It insists the program is functioning better than other states with similar laws in place, at least in terms of the number of physicians and patients who are registered for participation.

Since January 2016, the report says, the state has certified over 5,000 patients through the assistance of 600 doctors that have come forward to complete the state’s online marijuana training course—that’s more registered physicians than other programs that have existed longer.

Despite the limited success of the program, the Health Department says there are a number of improvements that need to be made to strengthen its foundation, including the expansion of its list of qualified conditions.

We recommend “a review of evidence be conducted for the medical use of marijuana in patients suffering from chronic intractable pain,” the report reads.

But the Health Department feels that the first course of action should be to allow nurse practitioners the freedom to provide patients with medical marijuana recommendations. This should be done in order to remain “consistent with their current authority to prescribe controlled substances” which “would allow them to properly treat patients suffering from severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions, particularly in many rural counties where there are fewer physicians available.”

The report goes on to suggest that the state should work toward providing cannabis access in schools and health care facilities, while also exploring alternative methods, including a home delivery system, to make it easier for patients to get their hands on this medicine.

Among other proposed changes—ranging from outreach to ease federal restrictions to extending the financial hardship waiver—the Health Department believes officials should consider getting more marijuana businesses involved with the program in order to bring a wider variety of brands and products to the market. It also recommends the continued evaluation of scientific developments that could one day lead to patients consuming medical marijuana through delivery methods other than pills and vapors.

There is hope that the Health Department’s report will be taken seriously over the next year, and perhaps influence legislative changes

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