New York’s very strict medical marijuana program has been going through some changes since last December. After a bit of a rough start, the program has been slowly opening up to treat more of the patients who desperately need it, faster. As the demand grows for medical marijuana in the state, the Department of Health has decided to make it possible for doctors, nurses and their assistants to register new patients online the same day. This will allow those who need it to forego the waiting process and get immediate access to relief. According to The Cannabist, they have also added another course on the medicinal use of marijuana so that those who may want to be a part of the program will have access to that advantage.
Current Qualifying Conditions
Last December, chronic pain was added to the list of qualifying conditions for the program. Since adding the condition, 7,504 more patients have joined the program, bringing the number up to over 22,000 patients currently signed up to the program. This number is constantly growing as new conditions get added to the program and the system becomes more user friendly. As it stands, only a few conditions qualify for treatment, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, epilepsy, some spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.
Adding PTSD as a Qualifier
After a plea from U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to help veterans find relief, it appears that PTSD may be added to the list as soon as next week. A bill passed the state Senate 50-13 that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions and is now in the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it into law. With so many suicides each year from veterans, the VA is keen to study how medical marijuana can help to treat PTSD in states where it is already legal. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the plant is extremely effective at treating the disorder.
Conflict with Federal Government
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is questioning marijuana as an effective treatment. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long time prohibitionist, wrote a letter to Congress earlier in the year, requesting the right to spend federal funding on going after the medical marijuana industry. 29 states now have medical marijuana programs and polls indicate that the majority of Americans believe that medical marijuana should be legal. All studies on the plant have found it to be safer and healthier than prescription medication, alcohol and cigarettes, yet it remains illegal and classed as a Schedule I substance, the category for the highest risk drugs that have no medical use. As a result of the attack on the industry, several bipartisan bills have been prevented that seek to reschedule or de-schedule the plant as well as ones that aim to protect states from federal interference when it comes to marijuana.
For now, as evidence continues to grow about the medicinal uses of marijuana, the New York program appears to be expanding one condition at a time.