Medical Marijuana in New York State
Since the implementation of the first passage of the Compassionate Care Act in California in 1996, large pharmaceutical companies have lobbied against states wishing to follow suit. In 2014, New York decided to respond to the needs of its residents and pass their version of this landmark bill. While many in the medical community do not understand why the federal government hasn’t followed the will of the states and done the same, others believe they know what has tied the hands of legislators, Big Pharma.
According to some estimates, pharmaceutical companies account for more than 2 billion dollars spent on lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade. Nine out of 10 members of the House of Representatives and all but three of the 100 Senators have taken campaign contributions from these companies seeking to affect legislation on everything from the cost of drugs to how new medicines are approved. Despite the obvious reasoning of getting legislators to look favorable at them while enacting new laws, why would pharmaceutical companies care if cannabis were suddenly made legal for medical purposes nationwide? The answer to that question may surprise some, others, not so much.
Can natural treatments such as cannabis be a threat to big Pharma?
To listen to a pharmaceutical representative talk about the wonders of their newest drugs, one would think that it is the breakthrough medication that will cure any disease. Well, as bad as it sounds, cures for most illnesses are a myth. What we do have is a wide range of treatments that, in some cases, help prevent the passage of the disease or illnesses from one person to other people. For example, even polio that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) touted to be eradicated as of 2015 can still be found in pockets of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The difference in this disease today and in years gone by is the fact that a considerable push to vaccinate children globally was very successful, making the spread of the disease very limited.
So, if diseases are only managed and not cured, why does Big Pharma want to halt the spread of medical marijuana? According to an article published in 2016 by Green Rush Daily, researchers studied how prescription drugs were prescribed from 2010 to 2013 under Medicare Part D. They concluded that in states who had taken the step to legalize medical cannabis, fewer prescriptions were being written than states without the medical use laws. Listed below are just a few of the differences they found:
- 265 fewer antidepressants were prescribed
- 486 fewer seizure medication prescriptions were written
- 541 fewer anti-nausea prescriptions
- 562 fewer anti-anxiety prescriptions
- 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers were prescribed
While some may not feel that these numbers are significant, let’s keep in mind that this study was conducted more than five years ago. Since that time, the use of opioids as a pain reliever has exploded in non-medical marijuana states leading to a national crisis of opioid addiction. The concern over opioid abuse has reached such a level that many practitioners have encouraged legislators to include this as one of the qualifying conditions for a medical use card in more than two dozen states.
Other than the concerns of the effectiveness and safety of medical marijuana, why does Big Pharma work so hard to stop its popularity? Could it be that they understand that with legalization, they lose their monopoly on medications? Cannabis is relatively easy to grow as has been proven time and again by backyard enthusiasts. If people can cultivate their drugs, pharmaceutical companies aren’t as profitable as they once were. In the end, a corporation such as these big pharmaceuticals isn’t resisting the push for legalization for anything more than greed. They understand that medical marijuana will hurt them financially.
What can medical marijuana treat in New York?
New York passed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014. Under its guidelines, the following conditions can qualify someone to use medical marijuana:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injury with spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability
- Alternative to opioid use
- Substance use disorder
The severe debilitating or life-threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
- Opioid use disorder
If you live in New York and are suffering from one or more of the qualifying conditions, schedule an appointment with a licensed provider. During the evaluation, the practitioner will review your medical records and any supplemental diagnostic tests to determine if medical cannabis could be right for you. Once approved, the provider will make a recommendation for treatment and submit the necessary information to the Medical Marijuana program that governs the issue of ID Cards. Once the patient has received a card, they can legally purchase cannabis from one of the state’s licensed dispensaries. Recertification must be completed each year before the expiration date on the ID card. Patients are encouraged to make an appointment at least two months before this date; otherwise, a delay could limit access to the dispensaries.
Because some patients are under the age of 18, New York requires that those patients have a designated caregiver who will take responsibility for purchasing, administering, and storing the medication for the patient.
Since medical marijuana has been legalized in New York, the number of patients wishing to gain access to such a versatile drug is expanding daily, patients can now be certified using telemedicine. This process will allow doctors to use virtual programs to see patients at a distance and limits the need for inconvenient trips to a provider’s office.
Large pharmaceutical companies are pushing back against the legalization of medical marijuana across the United States. If individuals look at the numbers, they will be able to recognize the losses created by this new and effective treatment method. Like other drugs, cannabis can only be a treatment method and not a cure. However, marijuana tends to have fewer side effects, and due to the regulation, are less likely to be abused than other treatment options.