Effort to Expand New York’s MMJ Program Underway

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Several bills proposed in New York seek to expand the list of qualifying conditions, double the number of dispensaries, and allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to recommend patients for receiving medical cannabis, according to the Journal News.

Backers hope the bills will improve the state’s struggling medical marijuana program, which has been beset with low patient numbers and a dearth of doctors certified to approve patients for MMJ.

As of March 8, just 455 physicians out of an estimated 90,000 in the state have become certified to recommend medical cannabis, while only 1,565 patients have registered for the program.

The bills introduced this week by state Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried would add Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, dystonia, muscular dystrophy, wasting syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The bills would also allow New York’s 20 dispensaries to serve patients with MMJ cards from other states. Savino and Gottfried are also hoping to double the number of dispensaries to 40.

“The program – as restricted in the legislation and restricted even more by (Department of Health) regulations – I think is almost guaranteed to not work very well, and I think that’s what we’re seeing,” Gottfried told the paper.