For more than a year, patients throughout the state of New York have been forced to endure the daunting task of tracking down a physician connected with the state’s medical marijuana program. There was simply no public record detailing which medical professionals had the willingness or the power to certify patients for enrollment.
But on Friday, the state Department of Health finally released a list of white coats that can put people with debilitating conditions on the path to gaining access to cannabis medicine. The list, which consists of around 315 practioners, comes complete with all the pertinent details a patient would need to make contact with area doctors that can legally discuss cannabis medicine as part of their treatment plan.
State health officials said the move is all part of their commitment to improving patient access through the Compassionate Care Act.
“We are improving access to medical marijuana for patients in need across New York state,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a statement. “As we have said from the very beginning, we will continue to grow this program responsibly and help ease the suffering of those who may benefit from this treatment option.”
However, the list is not complete. It only contains roughly over 30 percent of the doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners that are now qualified to make medical marijuana referrals. This means there are several hundred registered healthcare providers that have opted to remain off the list. It seems that some of these professionals, while eager to incorporate cannabis medicine into their practice, are still uncomfortable with publicizing their involvement.
“A lot of doctors don’t want their name out,” nurse practitioner Terri D. Haskins told the Democrat & Chronicle. “They knew when we signed up, you could pick that you wanted your name put out there or not put out.”
Last ear, the New York Department of Health began taking steps to improve the state’s medical marijuana program, adding chronic pain as a qualified condition. Since then, thousands more patients have become medical marijuana cardholders. There are now more than 18,000 patients statewide.
In order to facilitate this growth, the state is currently working to license five more marijuana companies to produce and distribute additional cannabis products. Yet the plan is being met with a great deal of resistance from the initial five companies charged with this task, all of which argue that an expansion effort of this magnitude will cripple the program entirely.
Nevertheless, the state says it will continue moving forward with plans to ensure that patients are getting the medicine they need.