State Health Department expanding medical marijuana program, making it easier for practitioners to certify
Friday, August 11, 2017 - 2:32 pm

The New York State Department of Health recently announced a new set of regulations to expand the state's medical marijuana program, “while improving its experience for patients, practitioners and registered organizations alike,” DOH said in a news release.

Once adopted, the new regulations will allow for the sale of additional medical marijuana products, an “improved experience for patients and visitors” at dispensing facilities and the addition of new courses that will allow prospective practitioners to complete their training in a shorter amount of time, DOH said.

The proposed changes include:

• Expanding the variety of medical marijuana products -- Under the new regulations, registered organizations will be allowed to manufacture and distribute additional products including topicals such as lotions, ointments and patches, as well as solid and semi-solid products including chewable and effervescent tablets and lozenges. Certain non-smokable forms of ground plant material will also be permissible for manufacture and distribution. All products will be subject to “rigorous testing,” DOH said, and the department will reserve the right to exclude inappropriate products or those which pose a threat to the public.

• Improving the dispensing facility experience -- The new regulations will also allow prospective patients and practitioners to enter a dispensing facility to speak directly with a representative, learn about products, and get information about the medical marijuana program. In addition, these measures will allow people other than designated caregivers to accompany certified patients to the dispensing facility.

• Refining the training program for practitioners -- Based on feedback from practitioners, the department's proposed regulations will allow for shortened versions of the practitioner's course required to certify patients for medical marijuana, in addition to the currently available four-hour courses. The department will work with course providers to offer a two-hour course, which is similar to other medical education courses.

• Other regulatory actions -- In addition, the proposed regulations also make a number of changes to “help enhance the medical marijuana program,” DOH said. These changes include broadening the capability of registered organizations to advertise, streamlining the manufacturing requirements for medical marijuana products, amending security requirements, and clarifying laboratory testing methods, among other actions.

The proposed regulations will be published in the New York State Register on Aug. 23. They will then be subject to a 30-day public comment period before they can be adopted.

DOH recently authorized five registered organizations to manufacture and dispense medical marijuana in New York state, which they say will improve patient access, product pricing and availability and the geographic distribution of dispensing facilities across the state.

Other recent changes to the state's medical marijuana program include adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition, empowering nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients, permitting home delivery and publishing a list of registered practitioners who have consented to be listed publicly.

As of Aug. 8, there were 26,561 certified patients and 1,155 registered practitioners participating in the program. The number of certified patients has increased by 11,569 (77 percent) since the addition of chronic pain in late March.

For more information on New York's medical marijuana program, visit: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/.