Updated on January 5, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The medical marijuana program in New York is undergoing positive changes that will make it easier for patients to get the marijuana treatment they need. Despite the success the program saw in its first year, these new regulations should improve access to treatment and expand the number of patients served.
On November 30, 2016, regulation changes went into effect that allowed nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana. The most recent changes will include physicians’ assistants (PAs) as certifying professionals, able to assess a patient’s need for medical marijuana and include them in the program.
Physicians’ assistants are licensed to treat patients under the supervision of a fully licensed medical doctor. For PAs to qualify for medical marijuana certification, their supervising physician must be a registered marijuana doctor. Doctors must meet four criteria to treat patients in the medical marijuana program in New York:
Hold a license to practice medicine, in good standing, in New York
Complete a four-hour state sanctioned training course
Qualify to treat patients with the serious diseases named in the marijuana law
Register with the department of health
A PA whose supervising doctor is a registered medical marijuana doctor must meet the same criteria to become a registered provider in the medical marijuana program in New York.
New Certifications Increase Availability of Medical Marijuana
To become a marijuana patient in New York, you need to be certified by a qualified medical practitioner. At the beginning of 2017, there were fewer than 1,000 practitioners registered in the medical marijuana program and 15,000 registered patients. There are approximately 19.75 million people living in New York state. If even one quarter of them suffered from a debilitating disease and sought medical marijuana treatment for their symptoms, that would be almost five million people seeking treatment from fewer than 1,000 doctors. By including PAs and nurse practitioners in the pool of possible marijuana doctors, New York will increase access to marijuana treatment.
There are more than 12,000 licensed PAs in New York state and more than 234,000 nurse practitioners. Making medical marijuana registration available to all of those medical practitioners is probably the fastest way to increase access for patients. PAs and nurse practitioners are already treating patients and prescribing medicine, so being registered to recommend medical marijuana is not a stretch of their duties at all.
Medical Marijuana Deliveries Set to Begin
There are several barriers to access that medical marijuana patients face, not the least of which are physical. People suffering from painful and debilitating diseases find it hard to get out to the doctor or the dispensary. They may be certified for marijuana treatment, but their access to the marijuana is limited.
Home delivery is an important feature that allows mobility-challenged patients to get the relief they need from medical marijuana. The New York State Department of Health approved five licensed medical marijuana companies to begin home delivery in 2017. Three of the five companies are located in the New York City area and will serve this densely populated region.
Receiving medical marijuana treatment at home will be a welcome relief to many certified marijuana patients. As the medical marijuana program expands in New York, so will areas covered by this delivery option.
Department of Health Expands List of Qualifying Conditions
Medical marijuana law in New York state restricts access to patients diagnosed with certain conditions. The medical conditions that qualify for marijuana treatment in New York are:
The Department of Health also recently added chronic pain to this list.
According to recent studies, as many as 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Half of those people report daily pain, and at least half characterize their pain as severe. By adding chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions, the Department of Health in New York is allowing increased access to the healing benefits of medical cannabis to relieve pain and restore mobility — and a higher quality of life.
Three Ways New York’s Medical Marijuana Program Is Expanding
New York’s medical marijuana program is growing faster than was anticipated. Using data from the program participants, the Department of Health is finding ways to expand the program and help more people. After one year in place, the program expanded in each of three components — providers, dispensaries and patients:
Making more medical providers eligible to recommend marijuana treatment to patients and certify patients for the medical marijuana program will help the program grow even faster. To keep up with the demand for the healing benefits of cannabis, the medical marijuana program in New York has to continue expansion.
Increasing the reach of the medical cannabis distribution system makes it possible for more qualified patients to take advantage of the program. Delivering cannabis to seriously sick patients lets licensed dispensaries in New York reach more customers.
Adding chronic pain to the list of allowable conditions for medical marijuana treatment opens access to many people who need cannabis. Many people with chronic pain cannot get relief from any other means, and access to medical marijuana could change their lives. Those who have to rely on highly addictive pain medicines can now use a safer, more effective treatment.
If you suffer from chronic pain or another condition on the New York list of qualifying conditions, medical marijuana could be right for you. It helps millions of Americans relieve debilitating symptoms and improve their health and their lives.
Connect with MarijuanaDoctors.com to find a marijuana doctor in your area. Our doctors can help you get certified as a marijuana patient, recommend the medical cannabis treatment that is right for you and direct you to a licensed dispensary. Search our frequently updated database of marijuana doctors to get started on your journey to healing.