By Bill Parry
Thousands of New Yorkers who suffer from chronic pain will be able to seek relief with medical marijuana after the state Health Department agreed to loosen strict eligibility rule. The DOH will develop a proposed regulatory amendment, which will include language specifying the chronic pain conditions that will qualify for medical marijuana.
“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,” Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said. “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.”
At Vireo Health New York, the company that operates the Queens Patient Center in Elmhurst, the only dispensary of cannabis-based medication products, , executives were pleased the program will be expanded.
“The announcement is welcome news for New Yorkers suffering from chronic pain,” Vireo Health of New York CEO Ari Hoffnung said. “Patients struggling with pain deserve more treatment options and it is our hope that medical marijuana will help address one of the biggest public health challenges facing our State — the opioid crisis.”
Cannabis-based medications are seen as a better choice for relieving chronic pain than opioid drugs which are dangerous, addictive and have serious side effects. The current qualifying conditions are cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, and Huntington’s disease.
The pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based products distributed at the Queens Patient Center, located at 89-55 Queens Blvd., comes in pills, vaporized oils and sprays dispensed by licensed pharmacists.
“We applaud the Department of Health’s decision and are ready to serve patients with chronic pain,” Vireo Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Dahmer said. “We will continue to advocate for measures that improve patient access to dependable and safe medical cannabis and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers suffering from life-threatening and debilitating diseases.”
Vireo Health of New York was awarded one of five licenses in the state to manufacture and provide the cannabis-based products under the state’s Compassionate Care Act that was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Distribution of the medication is conducted according to a very strict protocol under the auspices of the state Board of Health.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr