State regulators want to make medical marijuana more accessible, introducing new recommendations designed to cut the cost, expand who can use it, who can approve it for use as well how it can be used for research.
The recommendations, many of which focus on deterring self-medication through recreational marijuana use, are included in a second two-year report by the New York State Department of Health on the Compassionate Care Act. The program began in January of 2016 and now includes participation by nearly 81,000 certified patients and just over 2,000 registered practitioners.
According to the DOH, the recommendations are part of an effort to improve the program to help New Yorkers suffering from serious and debilitating conditions. But the proposals would also help boost participation in the program.
The report includes nine specific recommendations, including giving practitioners more clinical discretion to determine whether to certify patients to use medical marijuana, as well as allowing all practitioners licensed to prescribe controlled substances the ability to certify patients. Currently, it can only be recommended by physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
On the subject of research, the DOH said it will implement regulatory amendments that allow registered organizations to use third-party contractors for security; support research studies of approved medical marijuana products; and allow researchers to apply for licensure to acquire, possess, store and administer medical marijuana to enable clinical and basic research.
The report also addressed concerns that medical marijuana is priced too high, recommending a pilot study for health insurance coverage; and educating practitioners and patients on the process for obtaining reimbursement with the State Workers’ Compensation Board. The recommendations follow the introduction of a bill in October by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried requiring coverage by public health plans in the state, including Medicaid.
Additional recommendations deal with education of practitioners and the public on the benefits of medical marijuana, simplification of the registration and certification aspects of the program and allowing up to five caregivers per patient participate in the program to provide more flexibility for families.
It’s likely most of those recommendations will become part of the law, assuming the state treats them as it did the recommendations from an initial report issued eight months after the program began. State officials went on to authorize home delivery, allow others to prescribe it, add several more qualifying medical conditions for patients to use medical marijuana and double the number of registered organizations supplying it in the state.
That’s what led to the opening this week of The Botanist, the first of four dispensaries opened by Acreage Holdings in New York. The company was among the second round of registered organizations selected by the DOH to manufacture and distribute medical marijuana in the state. The Seneca Street dispensary is the third to open in Erie County since early 2016.