New Hampshire’s medical cannabis registered patient counts have reached 3,000 one year after the state’s first dispensary opened, according to a Union-Leader report. However many potential patients are still having a difficult time finding providers who will certify them for the program. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, 722 medical providers have approved patients as of Apr. 7.
For patients to be registered with the New Hampshire program they must first have a three-month relationship with the recommending physician or advanced practice registered nurse – the only medical professionals allowed to decide whether the patient has a “qualifying medical condition.”
A recent report to lawmakers by Michael Holt, the therapeutic cannabis program policy administrator at the Health Department, indicated that an ongoing issue with the regime is “patient access due to lack of provider participation.” He said that he hears from patients that doctors are either unwilling to sign the patient’s certification papers “or are prohibited by their practice or hospital group from participating in the program.”
A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Hospital Association said she was unaware of any hospital in the state with such a policy. Officials at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Elliot Health System, Lakes Region General Hospital, and Catholic Medical Center all said they had no rules against program participation for their staff.
Two treatment providers said many of their patients are using cannabis as a pain therapy alternative for opioids. Lisa Withrow, owner of Palliativity Medical Group, explained that 90 to 95 percent of patients she certified have chronic pain and “all of them have shown significant reduction” in the number of opioid, psychotropic, and muscle relaxing pharmaceuticals they take.
“That’s what the patients want,” she said, noting that many rely on edibles. “They don’t want to be on these things.”