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Nurse practitioners can soon prescribe medical marijuana

(Vireo Health of New York has had its entire line of medical marijuana products certified as kosher)

ALBANY -- By the end of the month, New York nurse practitioners will be able to certify patients for medical-marijuana prescriptions, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday.

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Under the amendment, which goes into effect on Nov. 30, state-registered nurse practitioners will be able to certify patients for medical marijuana.

The nurses will first need to complete a state course to prescribe the drug.

Similarly, a proposed state regulation has been issued to allow physician assistants to register to prescribe medical marijuana, if their supervising physician is also registered.

That proposal will be published on Nov. 30 in the State Register and will be subject to a 45-day public comment period before it is effective.

“Authorizing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients will only help to further strengthen the program and improve patient access,” Howard Zucker, the health commissioner, said in a statement.

The change comes as the number of patients using medical marijuana and doctors prescribing it continues to grow.

The state has 739 physicians registered to prescribe the drug, and 9,852 patients certified to use it, the health department said.

But medical marijuana advocates have criticized the state for not making the drug more readily available after it was first made available in January.

To address the concerns, the health department in August issued 12 recommendations to improve the program, such as increasing the number of marijuana companies operating in the state from five to 10, and increasing the number of dispensaries from 20 to 40.

Those decisions, however, have not yet been finalized.

The department is also considering whether to expand use of the drug to people with chronic pain and allow for home deliveries.

New York only allows medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms, such as oils.

Currently to get a medical marijuana prescription in New York, patients must have at least one of 10 life-threatening conditions listed on the program’s website, such as cancer, ALS or a severe spinal injury.

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