New Yorkers With Chronic Pain Eligible For Medical Marijuana

By McCarton Ackerman 12/05/16

The new amendment will give chronic pain patients a non-opioid alternative to treat their ailments. 

New Yorkers With Chronic Pain Eligible For Medical Marijuana

New Yorkers suffering from chronic pain are about to get a bit of relief as the condition has been added to a list of qualifying ailments to receive medical marijuana in the state.

The news was announced on Thursday by the New York State Department of Health, adding chronic pain to the list of 10 other qualifying conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. The DOH will also add specific language listing the exact chronic pain conditions that qualify for MMJ, including cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

“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.”

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.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.