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New York State Is Making it Easier to Get Medical Marijuana

August 30, 2016, 5:16 PM UTC
Marijuana Grow Near Albany For State's Legal Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
JOHNSTOWN, NY - AUGUST 19: Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation facility, August 19, 2016 in Johnstown, New York. New York state lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana for medical use in 2014 and the law took effect in January 2016. Currently, five organizations are allowed to grow and sell the drug for medical use in the state. New York's new law only allows people with 'severe debilitating or life threatening conditions' to obtain marijuana for medical use. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Photo by Drew Angerer—Getty Images

New York state is about to expand its medical marijuana program to help better meet patient need and improve accessibility.

The state’s new policies were recommended by the Department of Health and will include things like home delivery and doubling the number of companies that can provide the substance. The New York Times reports that the policy changes are expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Advocates of medical marijuana have previously criticized New York’s program for being too limited. “We’ve always been interested in expanding the program,” Alphonso David, Governor Cuomo’s counsel, told the Times. “We just wanted to make sure we had the data to support it.” Most of the Health Department’s recommendations will go into effect right away. Home delivery, for one, will likely be implemented by the end of September.

Kassandra Frederique, the state director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York office, told the Times that patients have been asking for a lot of these changes for the past year and a half. Many of the new policies will make life easier for patients who use medical marijuana. There are currently only five firms in New York that are permitted to sell the drug. The state plans to grow that number to 10 so that patients hopefully won’t have to travel as far to find a dispensary. Home delivery will help those who have difficulty traveling at all.

Nurse practitioners will now be allowed to certify patients for medical marijuana use. Some doctors are hesitant to recommend the drug, or even refer a patient to someone who can, because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug by federal standards. Expanding the role of nurse practitioners will hopefully alleviate that problem.

Additionally, New York plans to add more conditions to the list of those that qualify a patient for medical marijuana use. As of now, it can only be recommended to someone with cancer, AIDS, or epilepsy. The state is expected to expand its list of qualifying illnesses to include PTSD and similar mental health issues, and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.