NY lawmakers try to overcome cannabis law restrictions
WHEC News reports that two newly passed bills in the NY State Assembly are aimed at helping patients gain easier access to medical marijuana. One allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe cannabis, not just doctors. The other requires a public list of the physicians who are registered to prescribe medical marijuana. If the bills are passed by the NY Senate, a list will be published online. As of the article’s publication date, May 27, only about 600 doctors have registered, and it is not clear who they are. Thus, patients may have to randomly call doctors or check social media for clues. Ironically, two laws seem to require that this information be public, but it is still not.
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Doctors face legal risks over medical marijuana
The complicated nature of this state’s cannabis law is laid out in this article. Prior to passage of the Assembly bill, the state Department of Health would not give out names of doctors registered with the medical marijuana program that began in January 2016. Doctors had to pay a fee for a training program in order to be registered, and with 90,000 doctors practicing in the state, the ones who are registering comprise a very small percentage. Doctors who do prescribe marijuana are supposed to include dosing information in New York, yet this is not asked of doctors in states where cannabis is legal for patients. However, by prescribing doses of cannabis, they open themselves up to the possibility of losing their licence to give out many prescription drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration authorizes this licence, and marijuana is illegal under the federal law they follow. The Democrat & Chronicle says that the DEA will not comment on how it would handle such situations. One neurologist, Dr. Sheryl Haut, tells the newspaper that she would not approve marijuana for patients because she might lose this licence.
Few patients qualify for prescriptions
Smoking cannabis is prohibited for any reason in New York, and patients must use pills, liquids or oils via oral routes or vaporizers. Further, there are only 10 medical conditions that allow patients to use cannabis. Some are serious, such as cancer and AIDS, but many suffering people do not qualify. So far, 1,000 patients have been allowed into the new program, and there are over 200,000 who could qualify but haven’t been let in, according to the Chronicle. Yet clinics that deal with cannabis can be placed under heavy pressure because there are so few of them. The Dent Cannabis Clinic in the state has 10 doctors who have been receiving a total of over 100 calls per day about marijuana prescriptions.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who represents New York, supports federal reforms to decriminalize cannabis and states that politics are being placed before people. Dr. Jim Gaden actually told the newspaper that the cannabis law is an appeasement of lobbyists and that the state does not want it to succeed. He noted that few patients had asked him about it, perhaps because the law is so flawed.