Medical marijuana will soon be available in chewable tablets, lozenges, and ointments under new regulations announced Thursday by the state Health Department.
As part of an effort to expand New York’s struggling medical pot program, the Health Department announced that it would authorize several new ways patients can take the drug and also make it easier for prospective patients to gain access to licensed dispensaries. New products to be allowed also include marijuana patches, effervescent tablets and certain non-smokable forms of ground plant material.
Previously, New York’s medical marijuana offerings were mostly limited to liquids and oils for vaporization and capsules to be taken orally. Only non-smokable forms of the drug are allowed under state law.
“This is yet another positive step forward for New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program,” said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “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.”
As part of the proposed new regulations, the state also intends to ease restrictions that prevented anyone other than state-certified marijuana patients from entering pot dispensaries. Under the new rules, which are likely to take effect in September, any prospective patient can enter a facility to gain information and learn about the program.
Zucker also announced that the state intended to offer a shorter, two-hour online training program for doctors to go along with the four-hour program now available. Under state law, only doctors who have taken the training program can certify patients for medical marijuana use.
Since it started in January of 2016, New York’s medical marijuana program has struggled to attract both patients and doctors. As of Tuesday, there were 26,561 certified patients and 1,155 registered practitioners participating in the program.
“We welcome these regulatory changes and are hopeful they will help enhance patient access,” Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health of New York, one of the first companies licensed to grow pot in the state.
The new regulations were the latest of several steps the state has taken to try and boost the program. Last week, the state announced that it was licensing five new companies to grow and distribute the drug, effectively doubling the number of medical marijuana producers operating in New York.
Earlier this year, the state added chronic pain to the list of ailments eligible for marijuana treatment. A bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list was passed by the Legislature this year but has not yet been sent to Gov. Cuomo, who hasn’t said whether he’d sign it into law.
Meanwhile, the five existing companies that were licensed to produce pot when the program began in 2016 have filed seeking to block the state from registering the five new companies. The lawsuit argues that adding more companies without legislative approval would harm the medical marijuana program and overstep the Health Department’s authority.