Pubdate: Thu, 10 Aug 2017
Source: Journal News, The (NY)
Copyright: 2017 The Gannett Company, Inc.
Author: Jon Campbel


ALBANY - New York will allow ointments, lozenges and chewable tablets
as part of its medical marijuana program while the state's training
program for doctors will be cut in half, the Department of Health
announced Thursday.

Health regulators on Thursday proposed a new set of regulations that
would further expand the state's medical marijuana program, which the
state has tried to broaden as it faced criticism from patient
advocates and marijuana companies for its restrictiveness.

The new rules, which can take effect as soon as late September, ease
the state's restrictions on the type of marijuana products available
to certified patients by allowing lotions, ointments, patches, certain
chewables and lozenges.

The state's medical marijuana law only allows non-smokeable forms of
the drug.

"These regulations will continue to improve the program in several
ways, including making new forms of medical marijuana available and
improving the dispensing facility experience," state Health
Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a statement.

Along with the product changes, the new regulations also make changes
for doctors and dispensaries.

The new rules will allow doctors to take a two-hour course before
becoming a registered provider of medical marijuana, down from the
current four-hour course.

It's an effort to encourage more doctors to participate; As of
Tuesday, the state had 1,155 registered practitioners for 26,561
patients certified in the marijuana program.

Potential patients, meanwhile, will now be able to enter dispensaries
to speak to representatives about the products once the new rules take
effect. The current rules only allow patients that are already
certified in the program and their caregivers.

The move is the latest to try and expand the patient and doctor pools
for the state's medical marijuana program, which launched in January

Earlier this year, the state added "chronic pain" to the limited list
of conditions eligible for marijuana treatment -- a move that boosted
the number of certified patients in the state by more than 75 percent.

Kate Hintz, a state organizer with pro-medical marijuana group
Compassionate Care NY, said she believes the state is making an effort
to expand access to the program.

Hintz, a resident of North Salem, Westchester County, has a daughter
with a rare form of epilepsy who is a certified patient.

"They do seem to be staying true to their word, which I appreciate,"
Hintz said Thursday. "Now, that being said, even with a lot of the
changes that are happening, New York still falls in the category of
being one of the more restrictive programs in the entire country."

Last week, the state approved five new companies to manufacture and
distribute the drug, adding to the five that began operating last year.

The move has angered the original five marijuana companies, four of
which have sued the state in an attempt to block it.

The new regulations proposed Thursday will be published in the state's
official register on Aug. 23. That will kick off a 30-day public
comment period, after which the Health Department can officially adopt
the rules.
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