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New York State is making more changes to its medical marijuana program.
The only products previously available were vape pens, tinctures, cannabis-extract oil and capsules filled with oil. However, health officials have announced new regulations that will permit additional forms of treatment, including chewable and effervescent tablets, lozenges, topical lotions, ointments and patches.
The state also plans to create an abbreviated training program required for doctors and nurse practitioners, shortening the course from four hours to two, for physicians interested in authorizing medical marijuana for patients.
Additionally, the state plans to let prospective patients enter a store without a doctor’s approval.
New York has one of the nation’s most restrictive medical cannabis programs. Smokeable marijuana still isn’t allowed, and patients are not allowed to receive marijuana—either as flowers for smoking or vaporizing or as edibles.
But officials say they’re continuing to look for ways to tinker with the rules to make it easier for patients to get the help they need.
“We are grateful to the Department of Health for listening to what patients need, and working to expand the program and increase access to medical marijuana,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. “Different patients benefit from different types of products, and we are glad that the new rules will allow a wider variety of choices. This is a great step toward reducing costs and improving patients’ options.”
The new regulations are expected to take effect next month. As of Tuesday, there were 26,561 patients authorized to obtain medical marijuana in the state.
In March, the state began taking steps aimed at improving its medical marijuana program.
The state Department of Health added chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Less than five months later, the number of certified patients had increased by more than 40 percent, reaching 26,561 in early August.
In August, the DOH announced it had approved five more organizations, saying it “will improve patient access, product pricing and availability, and the geographic distribution of dispensing facilities across the state.” Each organization is licensed to operate one cultivation facility and four dispensaries.
From there, the green greed began when four of the five registered organizations tried to stop the expansion. In a lawsuit filed in April, Etain Health, Med Men, PharmaCannis and Vireo Health argued that the number of patients was too low to support additional licensees. (Bloomfield Industries sold its license to California’s Med Men in February.) Etain contends that it alone has enough medical-cannabis products to serve the entire state market for 18 months. Those products are now available at Etain’s new retail location in Manhattan, which opened in July after they closed their Albany store, according to Freedom Leaf.
Despite all the burocratic red tape, positive steps are being taken to continue medical marijuana’s expansion in New York State.