New York Wary of Expanding List of Medical Cannabis Qualifying Conditions

New York’s medical marijuana program is one of the most restrictive in the country in terms of its accepted qualifying conditions, and the state is so far showing no signs that it will expand the list beyond “severe, debilitating or life-threatening conditions.”

Health Commissioner Howard M. Zucker announced Monday that the commission would not add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, or rheumatoid arthritis to the list of qualifying conditions because, he argues, there is not enough evidence illustrating that cannabis can be effective in treating these conditions.

The New York Health Department had a year and half to examine these conditions in order to determine whether they should be included on the list of qualifying conditions. According to reports, health department officials enlisted help from the scientific community in examining research on cannabis and the conditions in question before determining that more evidence was needed.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, one of the Compassionate Care Act’s sponsors, argues that medical cannabis is being unfairly singled out for scrutiny. “The law or the health commissioner don’t tell doctors what diseases are appropriate for any other drug. We really should not have an official list for medical marijuana,” he said.

Officials fear creating a system as liberal — and difficult to regulate — as California’s, but so far these fears seem to be misplaced. The New York Times reported last week that just 51 patients have registered for the program so far, in part because registration has been open for less than a month and in part because of a lack of registered physicians who are qualified to recommend cannabis.

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