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NY to allow medical marijuana lozenges, tablets — and advertising

Cannabis plants at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation

Cannabis plants at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation facility in upstate Johnstown, on Aug. 19, 2016. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration is proposing to broaden access to medical marijuana by allowing patients to obtain it through ointments, patches, lozenges and chewable tablets, a move that could address one of patients’ major criticisms about the program.

Expanding the variety of approved forms of medical marijuana was just one of the steps announced Thursday by the state Health Department. It also said it will improve the “dispensing facility experience” by permitting other people besides a patient’s designated caregiver to accompany him or her to a dispensary. Another change involves shortening the course requirements for practitioners to gain certification.

Additionally, the state will allow licensed medical marijuana companies to advertise.

The state will open a 30-day comment period on the proposed changes on Aug. 23. The regulations can be adopted after that.

“This is yet another positive step forward for New York State’s medical marijuana program,” Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, said in a statement.

New York’s short list of acceptable forms of medical marijuana has been criticized by patients, advocates and state legislators. Originally, the program approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo authorized a limited number of “nonsmokeable” forms such as tinctures and oils. The proposal announced Thursday would widely increase the list.

It’s one of several steps the governor has taken to expand the medical marijuana program. The Health Department recently added chronic pain to the list of treatable conditions. The governor also is weighing a bill approved by the State Legislature to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list.

The state also announced it wants to reduce the practitioners’ certification course to two hours from four, which it said will match other medical education courses. Currently, New York has 1,155 registered practitioners for 26,561 certified patients.

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