New York to Offer Online Medical Marijuana Training for Doctors


Online training on the proper use of medical marijuana is now available for health practitioners in New York State.

The four-hour course will teach health professionals which of their patients may benefit from a medical marijuana certification once it can be distributed beginning in January 2016.

Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, said:

Registering practitioners is the first and most critical aspect toward ensuring that medical marijuana is available for certified patients with serious conditions, and that it is dispensed and administered in a manner that ensures public health and safety.

The course includes information on cannabis pharmacology, contraindications, possible adverse reactions, interactions with other drugs, methods of administration, risks and benefits, and abuse and dependence.

To take the course, physicians must be qualified to treat patients who have a condition that medical marijuana can alleviate, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, neuropathy, and Huntington’s disease. The prospective patient must have symptoms like severe or chronic pain, seizures, or wasting syndrome to be eligible for medical marijuana treatment. The cannabis will only be available in non-smoking forms such as oils, edibles, and vaporizers, from 20 dispensaries across the state, writes Chester Soria of Metro.

Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, the medical director of Dent Neurologic Institute and Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s chief of neurology, said that he hoped that the online course would make it easier for professionals to take the course after-hours, but he had doubts that it would give physicians the information necessary to determine which cannabis products are best for each condition. He also wondered whether the products will be ready for dispensing by January 2016, which could create problems for patients since transporting medical marijuana across state lines is still illegal at the federal level.

The course costs $249, reports Tracy Drury of Buffalo Business First, and those who complete it will receive 4.5 credit hours of continuing medical education (CME).

Many of the other 22 states with medical marijuana programs offer free resources rather than making physicians pay for training, observes David Klepper of the Associated Press.

Critics have noted that many doctors might not sign up for the course until their patients ask them about it, thereby preventing people from getting the treatment they need in a timely manner. Julie Netherland, deputy director of the New York chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, said:

If the state is going to meet their January deadline of providing medical marijuana to qualified patients, they’ll need do some aggressive outreach to get doctors enrolled, through the course, and registered to certify patients.

Through the Compassionate Care Act, New York state has awarded licenses to five companies to set up facilities, grow medical marijuana, and distribute it beginning on January 5th, 2016, writes Rachel Polansky of Local Syracuse. Governor Andrew Cuomo approved the program in July 2014.

Several of these companies have stated that they plan to provide educational material for both physicians and patients.