New York Medical Marijuana Program Could Expand Under DOH Proposal

New York, NY (WikiMedia Commons)

NEW YORK, NY — The New York State Department of Health has announced the issuance of new proposed regulations that would make changes to the state’s medical marijuana program to improve access.

Among other things, they would reduce some of the onerous security requirements for registered organizations, shorten the length of the medical marijuana course certifying practitioners must take from four hours to two, and allow additional types of medical marijuana products to be sold.

“This is yet another positive step forward for New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program,” said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “These regulations will continue to improve the program in several ways, including making new forms of medical marijuana available and improving the dispensing facility experience.”

New York’s medical marijuana program has been criticized by patient advocates as unnecessarily restrictive, and initial patient registration numbers were very low compared to other state medical marijuana programs.

The Department of Health has made several changes to the program since it issued a report in August 2016, including adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition and allowing registered nurses and physician’s assistants to recommended medical marijuana.

Lawmakers have also been working to improve the medical marijuana program this session. In June, the Legislature passed a bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must still sign the bill in order for it to become law.

“Many of the patients I worked with to help pass New York’s medical marijuana law have been unable to benefit from the program due to high prices and the inability to find a medical professional who is participating,” said patient advocate Kate Hintz in a statement. “I’m hopeful that the reduction in burdens on practitioners will encourage more of them to participate, and that these regulatory changes will help registered organizations reduce their costs, with those savings then being passed on to patients.

“We are grateful to the Department of Health for listening to what patients need and working to expand the program and increase access to medical marijuana,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project.  “Different patients benefit from different types of products, and we are glad that the new rules will allow a wider variety of choices. This is a great step toward reducing costs and improving patients’ options.”

Here are the proposed changes, as posed in a press release issued by the Department of Health:

Expanding the Variety of Medical Marijuana Products

Under the new regulations, registered organizations will be allowed to manufacture and distribute additional products including topicals such as lotions, ointments and patches, as well as solid and semi-solid products including chewable and effervescent tablets and lozenges. Certain non-smokable forms of ground plant material will also be permissible for manufacture and distribution. All products will be subject to rigorous testing and the Department will reserve the right to exclude inappropriate products or those which pose a threat to the public.

Improving the Dispensing Facility Experience

The new regulations will also allow prospective patients and practitioners to enter a dispensing facility to speak directly with an RO representative, learn about products, and get information about the medical marijuana program.In addition, these measures will allow people other than designated caregivers to accompany certified patients to the dispensing facility.

Refining the Training Program for Practitioners

Based on feedback from practitioners,the Department’s proposed regulations will allow for shortened versions of the practitioner’s course required to certify patients for medical marijuana, in addition to the currently available four-hour courses.The Department will work with course providers to offer a two-hour course, which is similar to other medical education courses.

Other Regulatory Actions

In addition, the proposed regulations also make a number of changes to help enhance the medical marijuana program. These changes include broadening the capability of registered organizations to advertise, streamlining the manufacturing requirements for medical marijuana products, amending security requirements, and clarifying laboratory testing methods, among other actions.

For more information on New York’s Medical Marijuana Program, visit: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/.

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