NY Officials Considering Expansion of Medical Marijuana

Aug 11, 2017

A proposal to expand New York State’s medical marijuana program would ease prescribing and cover more conditions. The changes would include easier access, shorter training courses for practitioners, and reduced regulations for dispensaries, among other changes. Legislative Counsel at the Marijuana Policy Program Kate Bell says these changes would have a positive impact on patients. 

A registered medical marijuana dispensary

“New York’s decision not to allow whole plant cannabis has actually made it far more expensive. Combined with the strict regulations, it just becomes very expensive to produce these products. Because they’re not covered by health insurance, in a lot of cases a patient can’t afford them and if they can’t afford them then it just pushes them back onto the criminal market.” 

(Proposed changes to Medical Marijuana Laws from NYS Department of Health)

The criminal market can be dangerous for patients. Bell says synthetic marijuana or mold on natural marijuana can sicken patients who have weakened immune systems.

Eligible conditions for medical marijuana use in New York currently are:

Bell says another change that is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s action is a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition. Those suffering from P-T-S-D have reported medical marijuana as a beneficial treatment. But, Bell says the federal law on marijuana blocks this treatment for V-A medical patients. 

“The VA has not allowed their doctors to talk to their patients about medical marijuana because the VA is a branch of the federal government and under federal law marijuana possession for any reason is a criminal offense.” 

Map of 29 states that allow the use of medical marijuana
Credit procon.org

The V-A in a statement said they are looking into benefits but are unable to prescribe medical marijuana now because of federal laws.

For other patients, Bell adds a doctor or registered nurse can now decide if opioids or medical marijuana will help their patient get through their day-to-day life. But, she says unlike opioids, there are no registered deaths from a marijuana overdose.

“Having medical marijuana more accessible to people helps them be able to reduce their use of opioids. In states that have medical marijuana access they have seen a significant reduction in opioid overdose death.”

Bell and the marijuana policy project call the proposed changes “a great step toward reducing costs and improving patients’ options.” The proposals are awaiting the Governor’s signature.