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NYS Health Department recommends expanding medical marijuana program

The New York State Health Department has recommended easing access to medical marijuana. In a report released this week, the department said it needs to find a balance between “relieving the pain and suffering of those in desperate need of a treatment,” and protecting the public from risks to health and safety.

The recommendations outlined in the report tend to support expansion of the medical marijuana program.

Medical marijuana is already available in New York as a treatment for any condition that might also be addressed by opioids. The Health Department said that is part of an effort to cut down on the prescription of more addictive substances to deal with pain.

Now, the department is looking to expand who can certify patients for medical marijuana – an attempt to reduce recreational use of the drug, even as a state panel is drafting legislation to legalize recreational use.

Currently, medical practitioners must register with the health department to certify patients for medical marijuana. According to the state’s latest numbers, there are zero registered practitioners Allegany, Orleans and Wyoming counties; four in Chautauqua; 1 each in Cattaraugus and Genesee; 86 in Erie; and 5 in Niagara.

Health officials now recommend that anyone allowed to prescribe controlled substances also be allowed to certify people for marijuana.

The report also suggests finding ways to open up opportunities for more research into medical uses for the drug.

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