NY Department Of Health Proposes Regulations That Would Expand Medical Marijuana Program

NEW YORK: The Department of Health just announced the issuance of new proposed regulations that would make changes to the state’s medical marijuana program to improve access. Among other things, they would reduce some of the onerous security requirements for registered organizations, shorten the length of the medical marijuana course certifying practitioners must take from four hours to two, and allow additional types of medical marijuana products to be sold.

New York’s medical marijuana program has been criticized by the Marijuana Policy Project and patient advocates as unnecessarily restrictive, and initial patient registration numbers were very low compared to other state medical marijuana programs. The Department of Health has made several changes to the program since it issued a report in August 2016, including adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition and allowing registered nurses and physician’s assistants to recommended medical marijuana.

The proposed regulatory changes can be viewed here.

Lawmakers have also been working to improve the medical marijuana program this session. In June, the Legislature passed a bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must still sign the bill in order for it to become law.

Department of Health Asks For Patient Input On Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program

PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy today encouraged Pennsylvanians who will be eligible for the Medical Marijuana Program to participate in a short survey to help ensure the program will meet their needs. The survey will be available on the department’s website until 5:00 PM on Friday, November 18.

“If you are a Pennsylvania resident and a patient with a serious medical condition, or a family member interested in becoming a caregiver for a patient, we want your feedback to ensure that we are developing a top quality program that provides relief to those in pain,” Secretary Murphy said. “The goal of the Medical Marijuana Program is to provide patients with serious medical conditions the help they need to cope. Throughout this process, we have been asking for patient feedback to develop a refined, patient-centered program.”

In addition to asking for input on the Medical Marijuana Program, Secretary Murphy recently announced that the department has hired Latrisha “Lolly” Bentch of Camp HillCumberland County, as the new patient liaison in the Office of Medical Marijuana.

“The patient liaison’s responsibilities include ensuring medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and advocacy groups have representation and access to the program during and after its development,” said Secretary Murphy.

Bentch’s responsibilities include ensuring medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and advocacy groups have representation and access to the program during and after its development. By listening to those who will be directly affected by the program, the department is constantly working to make sure the program will work as effectively as possible. The patient liaison position is the first of its kind across all medical marijuana programs in the United States, and will serve as a model for other states.

The medical marijuana program was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on April 17, 2016. Since that time, the department has:

  • Completed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines and Safe Harbor Letter application process, as well as approved 115 applications to date;
  • Released public surveys to aid in the development of temporary regulations for growers/processors and dispensaries/laboratories;
  • Developed the Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup, which is scheduled to meet again on November 28; and
  • Released a Request for Information for Electronic Tracking IT solutions for the tracking of medical marijuana.

Full implementation of the program is expected to take between 18 and 24 months. The program will provide access to medical marijuana for patients who are Pennsylvania residents under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition as defined by Act 16.

Questions about the medical marijuana program can be emailed to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov. Information is also available at www.health.pa.gov.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program Now Online

PENNSYLVANIA: Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy announced that applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter are now available online for parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to administer medical marijuana within the commonwealth to minors in their care with physician-documented serious medical conditions.

“I am excited to announce the availability of the Pennsylvania Safe Harbor Letter application, as it means children with serious medical conditions and those who care for them can begin to experience an increased quality of life,” said Dr. Murphy. “It’s very important to remember that approved Safe Harbor Letters should always be carried with individuals whenever medical marijuana is being transported and administered outside of the home.”

Parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses who will be applying for the letter must have certain documents secured before beginning the submission process. All applicants will need a picture ID, will have to complete a background check, and must also obtain a completed Safe Harbor Letter Physician Form from the minor’s Pennsylvania-licensed doctor. Legal guardians will need to provide guardianship papers, spouses will need to submit a marriage certificate, and caregivers must include proof of caregiver status. The application process will be done completely online, so all documents must be submitted in electronic form. Individuals without computer access should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for assistance.

The department developed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines to thoroughly and carefully outline the specific requirements that must be followed when a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse is applying to obtain medical marijuana to administer to minors who have a physician-documented serious medical condition.

While the Safe Harbor Letter is intended to serve as approval for Pennsylvania parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to possess and administer medical marijuana to minors within their care in the commonwealth, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice has the authority to enforce civil and criminal federal laws relating to marijuana use and possession.

The Department of Health is working to implement a high quality, efficient, and compliant medical marijuana program inPennsylvania. Temporary regulations are expected to be issued by the end of this calendar year for growers/processors; dispensaries/laboratories; physicians; patients and caregivers, as well as certain research institutions. The temporary regulations will explain the medical marijuana program’s operation and will be in place for two years from the date they are published.

The medical marijuana program was signed into law as Act 16 of 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf on April 17, 2016, and became effective one month later on May 17. The implementation of the program is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and, when completed, will offer medical marijuana to patients who are residents of Pennsylvania and under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition as defined by the act.

Washington Medical Marijuana Database May Not Be Operational By July 1

WASHINGTON: The Department of Health wants medical marijuana patients and providers to be prepared for possible delays when Washington’s new medical marijuana law takes effect July 1.

The law requires DOH to oversee the development and administration of the medical marijuana authorization database. The agency reportedly is experiencing some software challenges with the database, and it may not be ready by July 1.

The database is necessary to produce recognition cards.  Under the new law, recognition cards are required if patients and designated providers 21 and older wish to have access to the following benefits:

  • Purchase products sales-tax free.
  • Purchase up to three times the current legal limit for recreational users.
  • Purchase high-THC infused products.
  • Grow more than four plants in their residence.
  • Have full protection from arrest, prosecution, and legal penalties, although patients will still have an affirmative defense.

Patients and providers can still purchase marijuana from authorized retail stores; however, they can’t take advantage of the benefits until the database is operational.

In a press release, the department emphasized it is committed to ensuring patient safety, and promised to continue to work on having the database ready as soon as possible.

A status update is expected no later than Thursday if the agency fails to meet the deadline.