New York Approves Chronic Pain As Condition For Medical Marijuana
New York has officially approved chronic pain as a qualifying condition to receive medical marijuana.
The news was announced on Thursday by the New York State Department of Health, adding chronic pain to a list of 10 other qualifying conditions including inflammatory bowel disease and Multiple Sclerosis. The DOH will also add specific language listing which specific chronic pain conditions. qualify for MMJ. Among them will be Parkinson’s disease, cancer and epilepsy.
“After conducting a thorough review of the scientific literature, it became clear that there may be certain benefits in the use of medical marijuana by patients suffering from chronic pain,” said New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Thursday. “Medical marijuana is already helping thousands of patients across New York State, and adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition will help more patients and further strengthen the program.”
However, doctors will need to quickly get up to speed on all things pot. Nurse practitioners will be required to take a Department-approved online course on the medical use of marijuana and submit a certificate of course completion. A proposed rule being mulled over could also allow physician assistants to certify patients for MMJ use—provided the supervising doctor can also certify patients.
As of November, more than 10,700 patients have been certified for the state’s medical marijuana program and more than 750 physicians have registered. The new amendments for chronic pain potentially means that thousands of additional patients could be added to the program.
But despite having valid reasons for using the drug, there is still plenty of social stigma around it. A research project, published last year in the journal Psychoactive Drugs, found that some patients waited months, or even years, to pursue cannabis treatment options due to fears of social discrimination.
“I didn’t want to be high all day long. I just wanted to cope,” said Gaston Miron, who was diagnosed in 2014 with a cancerous tumor in his lung, to the CBC. “I have three little girls at home under the age of 12 [and] just to be with them is fantastic.”
Medical marijuana is also being used as an alternative method for curbing the opioid crisis. The Boston Herald reported in October 2015 that hundreds of opioid dependent users in the state were given MMJ to treat their chronic pain and anxiety symptoms instead of powerful painkillers.