New York: Medical Marijuana Expansion Is Happening

Michigan Pushes to Protect Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

New York officials are finally preparing to step it up a notch in respect to the state’s medical marijuana program.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health submitted the necessary documentation to make the concept of cannabis for medicinal use a little more accessible to patients across the state. The first step, according to reports, is an amendment to the current rules that will give nurse practitioners and physician assistants the freedom to write patient certifications.

Unfortunately, the department is still trying to determine whether to include “chronic pain” on its list of qualified conditions. That decision is expected to be made sometime before the end of the month.

The modifications to the state’s medical marijuana law come after health officials issued a two-year analysis back in August that suggested the longevity of the program depended on some change. In addition to the implementation of a policy that allows more than just licensed physicians to provide patients with program certifications, the report also recommended the possibility of allowing those suffering from “chronic intractable pain” to join the club.

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who has been somewhat apprehensive about advancing the program too quickly, believes that medical marijuana has been a victory for New York.

“The first year of New York’s Medical Marijuana Program has been a success,” Zucker said in a statement. “Over 10,500 patients have been certified by more than 740 registered physicians to date. Authorizing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients will only help to further strengthen the program and improve patient access.”

According to the Times Union, the latest changes will need to undergo a 45-day public comment period, which will start the last day of November, putting the amendments in a position to take effect sometime in early 2017.

It is predicted that this expansion will put thousands more of the state’s health care professionals in a position to certify patients for participation in the medical marijuana program. If the state does decide to put chronic pain on its list of qualified conditions, the program could be elevated from one of the most restrictive programs in the United States to one with some level of functionality—potentially servicing tens of thousands more patients.

Up to this point, it has been a struggle for both patients and the industry itself to squeeze any benefit out of the passing of the Compassionate Care Act. Since the program was launched at the beginning of the year, it has been mostly the sound of crickets reverberating throughout the state’s 20 dispensaries, because there have not been enough cannabis consumers thus far to even come close to flooding the gates. But it is getting better…slowly.

There are still a number of recommendations contained in the Department of Health’s report, including home delivery service and the possibility of more consumption methods, which have yet to be realized. There is some hope that the report will have some influence on legislative forces in the upcoming session and bring about some important changes that will make the program more comprehensive in the near future.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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