Chronic pain patients in New York will be able to seek a physician’s recommendation for medical cannabis beginning Mar. 22 – a move that could add significantly to patient counts and help combat the opioid crisis in the state, according to a Journal News report. The expansion comes more than a year after the program’s launch.
“Improving patient access to medical marijuana continues to be one of our top priorities, as it has been since the launch of the program,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in the report. “These key enhancements further that goal.”
The Health Department also announced that physician assistants can now register with the state to recommend medical cannabis so long as their supervising physician is also registered with the program. Both the chronic pain qualifying condition and physician assistant changes were announced by the agency in December.
“As a physician, I applaud efforts to expand the program based on the existing science and improve access for those patients who could benefit from treatment with dependable, real-dose medical cannabis,” Dr. Stephen Dahmer, Chief Medical Officer of Vireo Health, said in a statement.
Under the new rules, chronic pain is defined as “any severe debilitating pain” that has lasted “three months or more beyond onset, or the practitioner reasonably anticipates such pain to last three months or more beyond onset.”
The state is also considering doubling the number of operator licenses available in the state; however current licensed operators are still not profitable due to low patient counts caused by the program’s restrictive nature.