NY Continues to Increase Access to Medical Marijuana

April 18, 2017 | Health Services

Under New York’s medical marijuana program, which is tightly regulated by the New York Department of Health (“DOH”), patients with serious medical conditions can become certified for use of medical marijuana under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider. As of March 2017, DOH added two enhancements to the program to increase patient access. First, Physician Assistants (“PAs”) are now permitted to prescribe medical marijuana. This enhancement comes just a few months after Nurse Practitioners (“NPs”) became eligible to prescribe the treatment back in November 2016. Second, chronic pain has been added to the list of qualifying conditions.

In order to participate and legally prescribe medical marijuana under the New York program, healthcare providers must register with the DOH. PAs are now eligible, along with NPs and physicians, to register with the DOH, provided, however, that their supervising physician is also registered. The registration form for PAs, which must also be signed by the PA’s supervising physician, is available on the DOH website at https://www.health.ny.gov/forms/doh-5246.pdf. Registered providers must also complete a four-hour course on medical marijuana offered by the DOH.

Once registered, providers can certify patients for use of medical marijuana so long as the patients meet certain conditions. The conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment are cancer, HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, Huntington’s disease and, as of March 22, 2017, chronic pain. The regulations define chronic pain as “any severe debilitating pain that the practitioner determines degrades health and functional capability; where the patient has contraindications, has experienced intolerable side effects, or has experienced failure of one or more previously tried therapeutic options” and such pain must have lasted, or is reasonably anticipated to last, at least three months.

New York’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, applauded the recent expansion of the medical marijuana program. He stated: “Improving patient access to medical marijuana continues to be one of our top priorities, as it has been since the launch of the program. These key enhancements further that goal. Medical marijuana is already making a difference for patients across New York State, and we are constantly evaluating the program to see how we can make it better.” As of April 4, 2017, over 900 providers have registered with the DOH and over 16,000 patients have been certified under the medical marijuana program.

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