This is one time we can’t be upset about New York being in first place.
As New York prepares to roll out its adult-use marijuana market, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) on Monday greatly expanded the current medical cannabis program. In accordance with OCM’s new certification and registration system, doctors now have the autonomy to recommend medical cannabis for any condition they believe it can help.
Rather than being confined to a predetermined list of illnesses (which typically includes cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis), doctors have wide latitude to suggest a cannabis regimen to patients whose suffering is perhaps less chronic and degenerative but more episodic in nature.
Pundits are sure to critique the expansion as a free-for-all that makes the system vulnerable to fraud and exploitation. However, the New York state legislature and OCM have gone to great lengths to ensure that a sneaky recreational-user-in-patient’s-clothing does not abuse their doctor’s authority to certify them as a legitimate medical cannabis recipient. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), signed into law last year, lays out strict guidelines for how physicians themselves must first become eligible to make recommendations to patients.
The process, while not excruciating or excessive, nevertheless acts as a buffer between would-be patients and medical cannabis. Among other procedural steps, only those board-certified doctors who complete up to four (but no less than two) hours of coursework covering cannabis pharmacology, side effects, adverse reactions, overdose prevention, etc. would be allowed.
Is it medical school all over again for doctors who want to recommend medical cannabis? To a degree. If this is something they wish to offer their patients, they will have jumped through several hoops to do so. We also mustn’t forget that recommendations do not rise to the level of prescriptions. And could it possibly lead to some experimental recommendations of cannabis to document its effects on conditions not previously studied? Probably, though that falls completely in line with the MRTA’s broad and progressive scope. Doctors will be guided by science and empirical evidence, not mere hunches or external pressure from patients.
“It is terrific to see the Medical Cannabis Program expand so vastly with the launch of the new certification and registration program and the ability of practitioners to determine qualifying conditions as included in the MRTA,” Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Chair Tremaine Wright said in a press release.
As outlined, and intended, by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, New York’s forward-thinking cannabis legislation positions the state to be a “laboratory of democracy.” Is what’s good for one state (and eventually many states) good for the nation as a whole?
Here’s hoping—and soon.