More patients will be able to access medicinal marijuana in New York State from March 22 due to changes including enabling physician assistants to certify patients and the addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition.
In September last year, it was announced nurse practitioners would be able to certify patients – and that came into effect in November last year.
In order for physician assistants to qualify for certifying, they will need to complete a New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) approved course and the assistant’s supervising physician must also be registered to certify patients.
The difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant is the latter requires additional qualifications.
This change combined with the addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition could boost the number of registered patients in New York State dramatically.
Up to one in four Americans suffers from chronic pain. The situation costs the economy billions each year and can put a huge amount of strain on relationships. It also has a strong link to abuse of and addiction to prescribed opioid medication. Opioid addiction is a problem that has reached epidemic levels in North America and it’s hoped the availability of cannabis medicines will help address the crisis.
A report published last year indicated 5.4% percent of people in states prohibiting medical marijuana abuse their opioid medication – but the rate plummets to just 2.8% in states where medical cannabis is legal.
“Improving patient access to medical marijuana continues to be one of our top priorities, as it has been since the launch of the program,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker. “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.”
In order for chronic pain patients in New York State to qualify for medicinal marijuana, there are some hoops to jump through. They would have first need to have experienced intolerable side effects, or experienced failure of one or more previously tried therapeutic treatments.
There will also need to be documented medical evidence of the condition having a minimum three month duration after onset, or an expectation by a medical practitioner it will last three months or more.
The fine print aside, the news will no doubt be welcomed by New York State’s cannabusinesses, which have reportedly been struggling to make ends meet due to low patient registration numbers.
As of last week, 897 practitioners have registered for the state’s program, and 14,683 patients have been certified.
Further information on New York State’s medical marijuana program can be viewed here.