Albany – More than half of patients certified to receive medical marijuana in New York live in New York City or on Long Island, according to a new report.
The state Department of Health this week released a legally required report detailing the progress of the state’s medical-marijuana program, which was signed into law two years ago and launched in January.
As of June 15, the report showed about 57 percent, or 2,883, of the state’s 4,998 certified patients and 61 percent, or 366, of the 601 doctors participating in the program hailed from New York City or Long Island.
In Westchester County, 42 doctors are registered and 340 patients were certified by mid-June, while Rockland has 7 registered doctors and 106 patients and Putnam has one registered doctor and 49 patients, according to the report.
The report make a number of recommendations to improve the state’s medical-marijuana program, which has been criticized by patient advocates and some lawmakers as being inefficient and difficult to navigate.
Currently, the state allows five companies to operate one growing facility and four dispensaries each. The Department of Health recommends doubling that over the next two years, which the report says will help “meet additional patient demand and increase access to medical marijuana throughout New York State.”
The report also recommends allowing nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana use since they are already allowed to prescribe controlled substances to those with debilitating conditions.
“Allowing NPs to issue certifications for medical marijuana would allow them to properly treat patients suffering from severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions, particularly in many rural counties where there are fewer physicians available to treat such ailments,” according to the report.
Those changes would require the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve tweaks to the state’s medical-marijuana law.
As it stands, patients must be certified by a physician who completed a training course and registered with the state in order to receive the drug, which is only made available in non-smokeable forms.