The Department of Health released new regulations Thursday that they said would improve the state’s medical marijuana program for patients, practitioners and producers.
The new regulations will allow producers to expand their product line to include topicals such as lotions, ointments and patches, as well as certain non-smokable plant material, according to a press statement.
DOH spokesman Ben Rosen said in an interview that the non-smokable plant material provision allows for ground-based marijuana products, such as leaf material, to be included in medical marijuana products in capsule form or through other delivery methods designed by producers. Leaf material was previously prohibited under the state’s program, he said.
The DOH included in their announcement that the agency reserves the right to test and remove any products they deem are a public health hazard.
The regulations will allow certified patients to visit dispensaries with individuals other than their designated caregivers, which was previously prohibited. They will also allow people who are not certified for medical marijuana use to enter a dispensary, which was previously prohibited, to learn more about the products that are offered and the state’s medical marijuana program.
The DOH said they’re also shortening the course for practitioners that is required to certify patients for medical marijuana. The department is working with course providers to create a two-hour certification course that can be taken as an alternative to the DOH’s current four-hour course.
Under the new regulations, the DOH is also loosening restrictions on advertising at dispensaries and “clarifying laboratory testing methods.”
Rosen said dispensaries can advertise via illuminated and colored signage outside their facility, which was previously not allowed. He added that medical marijuana products will also be tested with a broader range of bacteria and mold to determine their quality and resistance to contaminants.
The new regulations will be entered into the public record Aug. 23, after which they will be subject to a 30-day public comment period before they can be adopted.
Vireo Health of New York CEO Ari Hoffnung commended the department for the updated regulations.
"We welcome these regulatory changes and are hopeful they will help enhance patient access,” he said.
Vireo operates a medical marijuana production facility at Tryon Technology Park in Fulton County. The facility produces five strains of cannabis oils that are used to treat different ailments.
Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, which was one of five additional medical marijuana companies that were recently licensed to operate in New York, could not be reached for comment. Fiorello is building a production facility in Glenville (Hoffnung was a former executive at Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, according to an article in Crain’s New York).
Fiorello has plans to open a dispensary in Saratoga Springs, as well as several other locations across the state.
The addition of five companies to the state’s medical marijuana program brings the total number of companies operating in New York to 10. It also doubles the number of dispensaries that will offer medical marijuana products in New York from 20 to 40.
The DOH said 26,500 patients in New York are certified to use medical marijuana, and 1,155 practitioners have been certified to participate in the program. The agency said the number of certified patients has increased 77 percent since the addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition in March.