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New York legislature expands medical marijuana program

by | Sep 27, 2018

This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Senate Bill 8987 which expands the number of conditions that are eligible for treatment under the state’s approved medical marijuana program.

The bill expands the list of conditions which are currently eligible for treatment to now include pain that degrades health and functional capability where the use of medical marijuana is an alternative to opioid use and substance use disorder. The goal of the legislation, and the governor’s action, is to allow prescribers who are treating patients with these conditions to better manage the underlying pain and disorder through utilization of approved medical marijuana treatment and, hopefully, less opioids.

The New York medical marijuana program was instituted in 2016 and has been subsequently modified by the legislature in the last couple years, with the most recent modification being passage of SB 8987. Additionally, the state medical marijuana program is expected to expand the number of licensed manufacturers and distributors from the current level of 5 to 10 which should help increase access for certified patients.

Concerns over medical marijuana use for workers’ compensation

While use of various forms of medical marijuana is now legal in a majority of states, clinical concerns remain around usage in workers’ compensation to treat pain. Additionally, concerns remain around payment for the treatment by workers’ compensation payers due to marijuana remaining a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law. It is possible that passage of SB 8987 and expansion of approved conditions in New York could lead to a spill-over of greater usage by injured workers to treat acute pain and other approved conditions.

More information on SB 8987 can be viewed here.

Our government affairs team continues to track similar legislative efforts in other states and we expect the issue to be a continuing topic in 2019. Should you have any questions about this or any other similar developing public policy topic, please contact us at AskGovtAffairs@optum.com.

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