<p>Kate Hintz (914) 257-7063<br />
Tony Newman (646) 335-5384</p>
NEW YORK—Today, the New York State Department of Health announced that they will expand New York’s beleaguered medical marijuana program by adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition under New York’s Compassionate Care Law. This decision by the Department of Health is a victory for patient advocates and for all New Yorkers who suffer from debilitating pain, which medical marijuana has been proven to help treat.
"Medical marijuana is a scientifically proven intervention for people who are suffering from chronic pain and we applaud New York State for added it as a qualifying condition to access medical marijuana,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY. “We hope to see additional improvements to the state's medical marijuana program, and eventually the full legalization of cannabis, so that no New Yorkers are criminalized for possessing and using the plant."
Since New York’s medical marijuana program was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in July 2014, advocates have raised serious concerns about the onerous regulations—more than100 pages in total–that make New York’s program one of the most restrictive in the country. Nearly 11 months after medication became available to the public under the program, patients and advocates are pleased that the Department of Health has begun to listen to patients and take steps to make the program more accessible to those who will benefit from this medicine.
“I am so pleased to hear that the Department of Health is moving forward to allow patients suffering with pain symptoms to access our medical marijuana program. Cannabis has been studied and proven to be an effective treatment in managing pain, and is a possible alternative to prescription opioid use. I hope that this is a significant step to remove some of the needless barriers New York’s chronically ill patients have faced when trying to access this program. Let’s hope the program continues to be enhanced and expanded so that more New Yorkers can afford and access this safe alternative," said Kate Hintz, a representative of the patient advocacy group Compassionate Care NY.
The addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition is the second change to the medical marijuana program within its first year of operation. Earlier this year, the Department of Health issued 12 recommendations to improve the program, including home delivery, allowing nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana, and increasing the brands and forms available, which are in the process of being implemented.
"The patient advocates at Compassionate Care New York are excited to learn that the Department of Health will add chronic pain as a qualifying condition to the medical marijuana program. With the national concern about American’s overuse of prescription opioids to manage pain, it is important that patients are able to access alternative treatments. We hope that the Department of Health will allow New York’s doctors to ultimately determine which patients suffering with pain qualify for the program and not complicate the criteria. The addition of chronic pain to our current program could benefit thousands of New Yorkers,” said the Compassionate Care NY patient advocacy group.
“The addition of chronic pain is a positive step in the right direction overall,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “While significant barriers remain surrounding access and implementation of New York’s medical marijuana program, we applaud the Department of Health for turning a corner and putting patients first. We remain committed to the expansion and improvement of the medical program and the end to overall marijuana prohibition in New York State.