New York adds chronic pain to medical cannabis conditions list

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New York health regulators took a major step Thursday toward boosting the state’s fledgling medical marijuana industry by adding chronic pain to the list of treatable conditions for MMJ.

The state’s health department said it is drafting rules to allow doctors to recommend chronic pain, although it didn’t spell out the symptoms that will qualify, the Journal News reported. The state currently has 10 qualifying conditions for MMJ, including cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease and epilepsy.

The addition of chronic pain could provide a major shot in the arm to New York’s medical marijuana market, which is one of the most tightly regulated in the nation. In other states that allow patients to obtain marijuana for pain, such as Colorado and Michigan, typically 1%-2% of the population signs up for the medical cannabis program.

New York’s medical marijuana market has been slow to take off and MMJ firms have been struggling, although the patient count has begun rising more rapidly. No marijuana flower sales are allowed, and medical cannabis is available only in nonsmokable forms.

However, last month the health department announced it was modifying its medical marijuana regulations to improve patient access. Nurse practitioners, for example, are being permitted to recommend medical cannabis to patients. The state is also reviewing the possibility of allowing more licenses for companies to sell and cultivate medical cannabis.