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New York Partially Releases Hidden List of Medical Cannabis Doctors

Updated on July 4, 2017

New York State officials released the list of the doctors in New York's new medical cannabis program on Friday, May 5. This list includes twenty-two doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants and was long-awaited by the public, especially those wanting to find treatment through medical cannabis.

However, this is only a partial list because it only includes those who wanted to be publicly identified because the state department of health cannot identify medical cannabis providers without their consent. In truth, there are about a thousand registered medical marijuana providers in New York State.

It has been difficult to get doctors to join the medical cannabis program to begin with. The program has found that doctors are very reluctant to join and many people involved in the program think the lack of doctors is the main reason why it has taken so long to get this program off the ground. To increase the number of resources from patients, the Department of Health allowed nurse practitioners and physician assistants to also get certified to recommend medical cannabis treatment to eligible patients.

It has been very difficult to get medical professionals to feel comfortable issuing medical cannabis. Many are hesitant because it is still illegal under federal law while others are uncomfortable with the lack of research and knowledge available on the benefits of medical cannabis. The fact that the Trump administration promises to be tougher on cannabis use than the Obama administration only hinders matters.

Under New York state law, medical practitioners must register with the state and complete a special online course in order to become qualified in certifying patients for medical cannabis treatment.

Since March 2017, over three thousand patients have been declared eligible for medical cannabis. This is due to the state adding "chronic pain" to the list of causes for medical cannabis treatment. The total list of patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment is now over eighteen thousand strong. The list of causes for medical cannabis treatment include cancer, HIV/AIDs, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, and Huntington's disease. Patients eligible must also have at least one of these complications: severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, wasting syndrome, muscle spasms, and/or seizures.

Releasing the list of medical cannabis doctors was critical for eligible patients to get the help they needed. Before the list, eligible patients had to cold call doctors to find those who were qualified to give them medical cannabis. This was time consuming, and even when the patient got a hold of a provider, he or she had to go through the process of being certified by the provider. While all of this was happening, the patient was still forced to suffer with his or her medical condition. Now, this list will allow patients to ease their suffering sooner.

However, medical cannabis is currently not covered by medical insurance, so it is still difficult for patients to get the treatment they need. Smoking it is also not allowed. It can only be vaporized and inhaled or taken orally with small capsules for it to be legal.

It was only at the encouragement of advocates and lawmakers that the Department of Health released the list. Progress is still slow in increasing the availability of medical cannabis to those who need it. Until major policies have been changed and more medical professionals feel comfortable making themselves known as certified medical cannabis practitioners, it will be difficult for eligible patients to get medical cannabis.

But releasing even a partial list is a big step toward promoting the availability of medical cannabis to help ease the suffering from these severe and painful conditions.

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