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More Reforms on Medical Marijuana are Expected through Improved Access


icon  26 Nov, 2016  /  icon  3        Author: Anne Fred

When medical marijuana became legal, patients began accessing medical marijuana at dispensaries, by using their doctors’ recommendation. However, many patients who qualify for medical marijuana are not able to access the Cannabis through the current system of marijuana delivery due to laws and regulations. The number of registered physicians who can certify patients to access medical marijuana is small, compared to the thousands of patients who qualify for the drug. More reforms are required to allow nurse practitioners and other medical practitioners to certify patients. The State Department of Health has announced that the reforms would be implemented to help patients easily access medical marijuana therapies.

In New York, Patients can only buy marijuana from the doctors registered under the medical marijuana program in New York. Only 739 registered physicians were in this program by November 7, 2016, while the registered patients were 9,852. The total number of practicing physicians in the state of New York is 74,792. The statistics show that a very small percentage of practicing physicians in the state is dispensing medical marijuana. The state Department of Education released figures in July showing that the state had 18,816 nurse practitioners. The figure includes nurses in all specialties. The move to include the nurse practitioners will help patients in underserved areas access medical cannabis.

About 20 counties in New York do not have any registered physicians to dispense medical marijuana. Some of the underserved areas include Ulster, Orange, and Sullivan counties. The three counties have 21 registered doctors. If the proposed reforms are implemented, access to marijuana in these areas will improve. Orange County has 347 nurse practitioners, Sullivan County has 56 while Ulster County has 127 nurse practitioners. The health department has also proposed further reforms that will help patients identify registered physicians. The department intends to make a public listing of all physicians that are licensed to certify patients for medical cannabis.

A similar listing of all registered physicians exists but only physicians have access to this list. The public listing will only include physicians who are willing to have their names and contact info publicized. The public listing may take a while but patients can get referrals for medical marijuana online by contacting the doctors registered at potexam.com. The site has practicing physicians based throughout the United States. The site was launched in California and now includes Doctors for almost every state.

Hundreds of qualified patients visit websites to buy marijuana online or book an appointment with a registered physician. About 500 patients book appointments via the site every month in California only. A similar number books appointments from other states every month. The number is still small compared to the number of qualified patients. However, the traffic to the site is an indication that patients would benefit if a higher number of registered physicians were accessible online. The proposed public listing will also increase the number of patients that order marijuana online. Meanwhile, the site should market its services to increase the number of registered physicians on its list.

If the health department implements the proposed reforms to include nurse practitioners in the medical marijuana programs, registered nurses should also be accessible online. The department can prepare a different listing for registered nurse practitioners. Alternatively, the health department can prepare a comprehensive public listing that includes registered physicians and nurses. Another necessary reform that will improve access to medical cannabis is adding more conditions to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. The state health department may include chronic pain in the list, which will help thousands of patients who are living with severe chronic pain.

Other medical conditions that the state should consider including in the list of qualifying medical conditions are anxiety, fibromyalgia, depression, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Including these conditions in the list will improve the effectiveness of the state’s medical cannabis program. The health department is also considering including physician assistants in the program. The assistants will be allowed to certify patients to access medical marijuana therapies. However, the supervising physicians must be registered in the medical marijuana program for their assistants to participate in the program.

Allowing physicians’ assistants and nurses to certify patients will strengthen the medical marijuana program in all states. Other reforms under consideration include allowing the licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to deliver marijuana to patients at home. The marijuana delivery service will benefit patients who qualify for the drug but are bedridden. The service will also benefit qualified patients who live in counties and cities with few or no marijuana dispensaries. Such patients travel for long distances to access the drug. For instance, Ulster County has only one licensed marijuana dispensaries while the entire state has 14 dispensaries. The dispensaries can serve more patients in the state through home delivery services.

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