An official at medical marijuana company Vireo Health applauded the state Department of Health’s recent decision to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the New York’s medical marijuana program, but said the company will not know the impact of the decision until the state reveals how it will define chronic pain.
On Thursday, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced that after conducting a thorough review of scientific literature regarding marijuana’s effect on chronic pain, the department will develop a regulatory amendment that will “include language specifying the chronic pain conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana,” according to a DOH statement.
The statement said the department will publish the proposed regulatory amendment for public comment shortly.
DOH data show that 750 physicians have registered for the state’s medical marijuana program, qualifying 10,730 patients as of Nov. 29.
Vireo Health of New York, a subsidiary of Vireo Health, operates a medical marijuana-processing facility at the Tryon Tech Park in Fulton County.
Vireo Health CEO Kyle Kingsley told The Daily Gazette that the state’s decision is very welcome news, and that the company is eagerly awaiting the state’s forthcoming regulatory amendment. Kingsley said the company saw a sharp uptick in business after chronic pain was added to the medical marijuana program in Minnesota, where Vireo operates a processing facility.
“In Minnesota we saw between a three- and a fourfold increase in patient adoption, we’re hoping that the increase in New York is even bigger,” he said.
Kingsley said Vireo defines chronic pain as intractable pain that is not likely to respond to traditional treatment, and added that medical marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids that are often prescribed in chronic pain situations.
“It’s not completely unlimited but basically folks that would otherwise turn to opioids have access to medical cannabis, it’s just so much safer than opioids,” he said.
Prescription opioids have been linked by many medical professionals to an opioid addiction crisis currently sweeping the country, and is linked by experts to later heroin use and addiction.
Kingsley said the company is also looking for a relaxation of federal tax regulations on medical marijuana, which would decrease costs to consumers. The company is also looking to see Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be added to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in New York, and wants to see home delivery allowed here.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Kingsley said of home delivery. “Obviously it’s a logistical challenge and we’re working with the DOH on that.”
He said the addition of chronic pain to New York’s program will allow Vireo to expand its capacity and better utilize the property it bought at Tryon Tech Park.
“Right now we’re using a tiny fraction of the land we’re on,” said Kingsley.
Kingsley said he doesn’t know how many patients the company currently serves in New York, or how many will be added under the new guidelines, but “it’s going to be a lot more once pain enters the fray.”
Reach Gazette reporter Daniel Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, [email protected] or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.