Patients in New York could soon have easier access to medical cannabis products. And companies not selected to operate medical cannabis businesses in the state will be given another shot.
The state department of health announced on Aug. 30 that many of the suggestions made in a recent medical cannabis program report will be implemented, a move that will change and expand New York’s medical cannabis program and industry.
As Cannabis Wire reported, the two-year report made 12 recommendations for how the program should change and expand. Doubling the number of medical cannabis providers and allowing patients with chronic pain to participate would most dramatically expand the industry, though the latter move is not guaranteed.
The state will double the number of existing medical cannabis providers over the next two years. And the process will begin with the department of health “revisiting” the original 43 applicants. Five companies were originally selected to vertically integrate cultivation, processing, and sale of medical cannabis.
The department of health has also begun conducting a review of medical literature related to medical cannabis use for chronic pain; the state expects to make a decision on this condition within 90 days.
Chronic pain is a common condition that would likely significantly increase the state program’s patient numbers after its addition. Up to now, patient numbers in New York have been relatively low; about 7,000 patients have qualified, compared with tens of thousands in some other programs. Cannabis Wire previously reported on some of the difficulties medical cannabis business owners have faced in states like New York and Minnesota. The startup costs of producing the required no-smoke cannabis products, in combination with low patient numbers, have made it tough to turn a profit.
Other changes include permitting delivery to those that cannot travel to a dispensary and allowing nurse practitioners to recommend medical cannabis.
The department has stated that they will also “encourage the federal government to relax restrictions on scientific research relating to medical marijuana.” Additionally, as banking remains a difficult issue for many medical cannabis businesses, the department said they will engage the federal government regarding “registered organizations’ ability to conduct financial transactions and establish traditional banking relationships.”
In the next month, the department will reach out to doctors who have recommended medical cannabis regarding their proposal to create a public list of doctors that will write recommendations. Doctors are sometimes hesitant to recommend medical cannabis because it has not gone through Food and Drug Administration trials and is not a federally approved medicine.
For patients experiencing financial hardship, the state will expand a waiver of the $50 application fee, which would apply to patients and caregivers. Still, the costs associated with medical cannabis use can add up for some patients, as Cannabis Wire reported, especially for those who require larger or more frequent doses; medical cannabis is not covered by any traditional health insurance.