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Medical marijuana bills passed to increase access

In the flurry of activity before the end of the legislative session, the New York State Assembly has passed two bills aimed at improving patient access to medical marijuana. Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried said patients are struggling to find health care providers authorized to prescribe medical marijuana due to changes in the 2014 Compassionate Care Act made by Governor Cuomo.  The bills passed authorize nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients for medical marijuana.

"New York law allows NPs and PAs to prescribe the strongest and most dangerous controlled substances, but not medical marijuana," said Gottfried. "Patients in need should not be denied access to critical medication just because they are treated by a PA or NP."

Buffalo Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes noted that there are only about 600 New York physicians registered to certify patients for medical marijuana, but no public list of them. As a result, patients are forced to cold-call doctors in hopes of finding one or go through social media or other potentially unreliable sources.

The bills passed would require the contact information of registered practitioners to be on the Department of Health's website. Practitioners who do not wish to be listed could opt out.

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