Medical Marijuana Will Be Available to Treat IBD Patients in New York City

Medical Marijuana Will Be Available to Treat IBD Patients in New York City

shutterstock_170034743Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one of the few conditions that the state of New York allow to be treated by medical marijuana. The state Health Department has released the final regulations regarding its medical marijuana program to be implemented next January, which will feature the same number of restrictions as previously announced.

The final regulations presented by the Health Department for the medical marijuana program did not undergo major alterations from the state proposal issued last December. In January 2016, the state is expected to authorize the use of non-smokeable versions of marijuana, which includes ingested or vaporized forms of the drug, for the treatment of IBD, cancer, HIV/AIS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord damage, epilepsy, neuropathies and Huntington’s disease.

The state will also provide licenses to five organizations in order to grow and dispense marijuana to state-regulated dispensaries.

However, a series of advocate groups were expecting different news, including not only the indications covered by the regulation, but also a series of additional diseases and conditions. Among the most important arguments among these groups are to expand the number of dispensaries, which at present only includes 20 facilities and may obligate patients to drive for hours in order to have access to the medical treatment.

“New York State recognizes that possession and use of marijuana is illegal in the United States. However, the State also recognizes the benefit in making available medical marijuana to qualified individuals with debilitating and life threatening illnesses and conditions,” stated the summary document published on the website of the department. “To that end, the Compassionate Care Act is balanced legislation that ensures appropriate access through comprehensive regulations and safeguards.”

“Expanding the initial set of regulations would have subjected the State to unnecessary scrutiny and jeopardized the program’s ability to move forward in any meaningful manner. The Compassionate Care Act and the proposed regulations strike the required balance by implementing a strong and effective medical marijuana program in New York State,” it adds.

The health department also addressed the arguments from the advocate groups, leaving the door open to adding additional indications, as well as more dispensaries in the future. Regarding concerns about the ability of low income patients to afford the therapy, since the state health commissioner is required by the regulation to set a price for the marijuana, the department reaffirmed the prohibition to distribute free products, however, a charity program may be considered in the future.

In addition, the state health department explained that practitioners will have to complete a 4-hour course, which will be made available online, according to the Compassionate Care Act in order to receive a certification. Groups voiced concern regarding the education requirements for the practitioners, which are licensed physicians, as well as the exclusion of health care practitioners. The state will also consider the addition of nurse practitioners for the program.

Medical marijuana is used in several cultures to treat pain and cramps, and while the secondary effects of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease include stress, disturbed sleep, anxiety and loss of appetite, the drug is thought to help with the symptoms. There are already other states in which IBD patients are able to use medical marijuana, including Arizona, where the leading medical dispensary of marijuana, The Giving Tree Wellness Center recently announced it was joining the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to take part at its Take Steps event on April 11.