New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, but the program has been hindered since the very beginning. Since day 1 patients have been calling for expansions to the program. New York state is home to one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the nation. Patients are not allowed to smoke marijuana, nor are they allowed to grow it.
The New York State Department of Health provided recommendations to expand New York’s program today. Alphonso David, counsel to the New York Governor’s Office, had the following to say about the proposed expansions, per The New York Times:
“We don’t want the federal government to come in and exercise an enormous amount of oversight and shut the entire program down,” Mr. David said in an interview on Monday. “We’ve always been interested in expanding the program. We just wanted to make sure we had the data to support it.”
There are several proposed expansions to the program, with the two that seem to be getting the most traction in the media being allowing home delivery and to allow nurse practitioners to certify patients. Even if all of these proposed expansions are adopted, there’s still a lot of work to do to improve New York’s program. Below is a press release from the New York State Department of Health that details the proposed expansions:
The New York State Department of Health today announced that, based on a statewide needs assessment, it will implement numerous recommendations through new regulations and guidelines to enhance its Medical Marijuana Program.The recommendations, which will improve access for patients suffering from severe, debilitating and life threatening conditions, include authorizing nurse practitioners to certify patients for the program, allowing for home delivery service of medicine, expanding the financial hardship waiver for patients and caregivers who apply for registration, and modifying the state’s data management system to make it more user friendly for certified patients and caregivers.
“New York’s Medical Marijuana Program has rapidly progressed, certifying more than 7,000 patients across the state and registering more than 675 physicians in just the first seven months,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Since launching the program, the Department has worked closely with doctors, patients and registered organizations to gather information relevant to strengthening the program in anticipation of the required two-year report. 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.”
Authorizing Nurse Practitioners to Certify Patients
Authorizing nurse practitioners to certify New Yorkers for medical marijuana is consistent with their current authority to prescribe controlled substances (including opioids). Allowing them to issue such certifications will help more patients suffering from severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions, particularly in many rural counties where far fewer physicians are available to treat such ailments.
“The Report’s first recommendation acknowledges that nurse practitioners have the necessary education, preparation, and experience to diagnose patients as suffering from a serious condition,” said Stephen Ferrara, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, Executive Director of The Nurse Practitioner Association NYS. “Allowing nurse practitioners to participate in New York’s program will provide greater access to New Yorkers of all ages and health conditions, since these New Yorkers are increasingly choosing a nurse practitioner as their health care provider.”
The Department has already initiated the regulatory proposal process necessary to authorize nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana. The proposed regulatory amendments will be published in theNew York State Registeron September 14, 2016, and will be subject to a 45-day public comment period.
Proposing Additional Regulatory Amendments
The Department is also proposing additional regulatory amendments to enhance the Medical Marijuana Program by streamlining manufacturing requirements and broadening the capability for registered organizations to advertise their participation in the program. The proposed regulatory amendments will be published in theNew York State Registeron September 14, 2016, and will be subject to a 45-day public comment period.
Allowing Delivery Service
The Department will also begin allowing registered organizations to offer home delivery services. In many cases, patients with serious health conditions cannot leave their homes and have difficulty accessing medical marijuana products. Within the next week, the Department will issue guidance to the registered organizations outlining requirements that must be addressed in their home delivery plan submissions. The Department will then review these submissions to ensure delivery services are implemented in a manner that protects the public health and safety.
Reviewing Chronic Pain
The Department has already begun conducting areview of evidence for the use of medical marijuana in patients suffering from chronic intractable pain. Identification of literature for the review process is already underway and it is anticipated that a decision will be made within the next 90 days.
Expanding the Hardship Waiver
The Department will immediately expand the financial hardship waiver for the $50 patient and caregiver application fee for registration, and will post additional information in this regard within the coming weeks.This will help alleviate the financial burden for a number of patients, helping them move one step closer to obtaining medical marijuana products.
Making Program more User Friendly
DOH will work toenhance the practitioner, patient and caregiver certification and registration system, including the Medical Marijuana Data Management System. The result will be a revised interface that is more user friendly. The Department will continue to introduce enhancements on a rolling basis.
Expanding Testing of Medical Marijuana Products
The Department is also looking at ways to encourage independent laboratories in New York to apply for the state’s Environmental Laboratory Approval Program certification to perform testing of medical marijuana products for the registered organizations. Within the next 30 days, the Department will conduct an assessment of possible steps to be taken in this regard.
Increasing Ability to Locate Practitioners
The Department is exploring additional ways to ensure thatpatients can locate registered practitioners.This includes the possibility of adding a public list of practitioners registered with the program to the Department’s webpage and enhancing the list of registered practitioners currentlyavailable through the Department’s Health Commerce System. Within the next 30 days, the Department will send a letter to all currently registered practitioners to determine whether they are willing to have their names listed publicly on the Department’s webpage.
Continuing Federal Outreach
The Department will continue its outreach efforts to encourage the federal government to relax restrictions on scientific research relating to medical marijuana, as well as the registered organizations’ ability to conduct financial transactions and establish traditional banking relationships.
The Department will also make additional improvements to the Medical Marijuana Program, including the following:
- Completing an assessment of possible regulatory amendments that would make it easier for healthcare facilities and schools to possess, secure, and administer medical marijuana products under limited circumstances necessary to safeguard the health of registered patients.
- Reviewing additional brands beyond the initial five required by regulation.
- Registering five additional organizations over the next two years to meet additional patient demand for medical marijuana throughout New York State. The Department plans to use a phased-in approach to facilitate a smooth integration into the industry. Over the next few months, the Department will begin revisiting the applications submitted during the initial RO application period to ensure that applicants are ready for registration.