Within the New York State Health Department recently published progress report of its medical marijuana program are 12 recommended changes the department intends to implement in the coming year, including home delivery.
New York’s medical marijuana patients may soon have an easier time getting the medicinal cannabis they need, as the state’s Department of Health recently announced that they would consider allowing marijuana dispensaries to deliver to patients’ homes.
The New York State Health Department recently published its Medical Use of Marijuana Under the Compassionate Care Act Two-Year Report, which features a list of 12 changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. The department’s recommendations are in response to criticism from patients who claim that New York’s medical marijuana program is too restrictive and difficult to access.
Currently there are only five firms in New York that have been approved to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana. If the recommended change were to be implemented, all medicinal cannabis patients, including those who live too far or are too sick or weak to travel to dispensaries, will be able to get home delivery.
“We are constantly evaluating the program to make it more effective for patients and practitioners, and we believe that the implementation of these recommendations will do just that,” state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a statement.
The Health Department also says it plans to double the number of approved firms to 10 over the next two years. Additionally, it’s considering allowing nurse practitioners, in addition to doctors, to certify patients for the medical marijuana program.
“Allowing NPs to issue certifications for medical marijuana would allow them to properly treat patients suffering from severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions, particularly in many rural counties where there are fewer physicians available to treat such ailments,” reads the Health Department’s report.
Once home delivery is implemented, for the five licensed companies to dispense marijuana through home delivery, they first must have their plans reviewed and approved by the Health Department. Home delivery will likely be implemented by the end of September, Fortune Magazine reports.
New York legalized medical marijuana after passing the Compassionate Care Act in 2014, but has been criticized for an extremely slow roll out. Despite having just 20 dispensaries, the program prohibits home cultivation and has approved only 10 conditions. Additionally, it limits patients to five specific strains of cannabis-based oils, while whole plant marijuana or anything smokable or edible is prohibited. Before registering with the Health Department to qualify for medical marijuana recommendation privileges, physicians must take a $249, four-hour course. So far, just 677 physicians have taken the training course. According to the Health Department’s two-year report, of the state’s 62 counties, 20 don’t have a single doctor registered in the program.
As of August 29, New York has 7,005 registered medical marijuana patients. The state is hoping that by allowing home delivery, expanding recommendation privileges to nurse practitioners and increasing the number of dispensaries will open up its medicinal cannabis program to many more patients.
Earlier this year Manhattan assemblyman Richard Gottfried proposed a new bill that would direct the Health Department to approve at least five more companies to grow and distribute medical marijuana. Gottfried, who also helped author the Compassionate Care Act, is cautiously optimistic about the 12 recommended changes by the Health Department.
“The recommendations, as far as they go, are in the right direction,” said Gottfried. “It’s still a disappointing report and the fact that these are recommendations and not announcements of action makes you wonder what is going to happen.”
The next step following the published recommendations isn’t clear. The department has just said that each is under review and it “will advise on the next steps in the process and substance within the next two weeks.”
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