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New York Expands Its Medical Marijuana Program to Allow Lozenges, Lotions, and Chewable Tablets

New York’s Department of Health announced that the state’s medical marijuana program would allow more types of cannabis products.

New York Health officials announced changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, including an expansion on the types of cannabis products that will be legally available to qualified patients.

The new regulations will permit chewable and effervescent tablets and lozenges as well as topical lotions, ointments, and patches. Previously, patients had been limited to capsules, liquids, and oil for vaporization or administration via inhaler.

According to a release announcing the new regulations, “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.”

The new regulations will also reduce the duration of the mandatory course physicians must take before becoming a registered provider of medical marijuana. Instead of the current four-hour course, doctors will be able to take one that’s two hours. The change is meant to encourage greater doctor participation. As of Tuesday, New York had only 1,184 practitioners registered to recommend medical cannabis.

Also among the regulatory changes is the allowance of potential patients and practitioners to enter a medical cannabis facility to ask questions of registered organization representatives.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

The regulatory changes must undergo a 30-day public comment period, after which the Health Department can officially adopt them. They’re expected to take effect next month.

New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014. While the state’s program initially struggled to gain traction when it started operation in December 2015, as of recently the number of registered medical marijuana patients has grown significantly. As of August 22, there were 28,077 patients authorized to obtain medical marijuana in the state. The law allows registered patients with a qualifying condition and doctor’s recommendation to purchase and possess a 30-day supply of non-smokable cannabis products.

New York has one of the nation’s most restrictive medical marijuana laws. However, last winter it expanded its medical marijuana program to include chronic pain as a qualifying condition. The change caused the number of certified patients to surge by more than 75 percent. Earlier this month, the state approved five new companies to manufacture and distribute cannabis to bring the state’s total to 10.

New York is one of 29 U.S. states to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 94 percent of American voters support allowing adults to legally use medical marijuana when a physician recommends it. Market analysts have projected that legalization could expand to all 50 states by 2021.

Learn about the research investigating the potential of cannabis or more about the medical cannabis laws in the state of New York by visiting our education page.