Local clinics optimistic about medical marijuana program expansion

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB)- New York’s Department of Health recently announced nurse practitioners will have the power to certify patients for the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Our patients ask us daily and it’s difficult because we just don’t have a space for these patients,” said family nurse practitioner, Kathryn Murphy.

Murphy works at the Dent Cannabis Clinic in Amherst. She told News 4 the office gets up to 70 calls a day from perspective patients.

Director of the clinic, Dr. Laszlo Mechtler is excited to see his nursing staff take a more active role in patient care. Statewide, he feels this is a big step in the right direction.

“Presently there’s about 750 physicians in New York state who are registered. Now we have 19,000 nurse practitioners in New York state so the numbers will increase dramatically,” he said.

Family nurse practitioner Grace Schnitter started at Dent about a month ago. She said this new option will improve workflow for the whole staff.

“I think now that we can actually see consults and continue with follow-ups, it will certainly help with his backlog.”

Nurse practitioners will need to complete an online course, which generally takes about four hours. State registration is normally completed in a matter of days.

There’s more Dr. Mechtler would like to see fixed with the program though; primarily, more support for ongoing research.

“One of the issues among physicians, is that this whole medical marijuana issue is driven by patients and politicians for now. It has to be driven by the medical community, and we just don’t have the appropriate research to allow us to give results to our patient population.”

Theoretically, Dr. Mechtler could research at the state level, but wouldn’t get any support federally. This needs to change, he said, if medical marijuana has a real shot at improving the lives of patients and cutting down on opiate abuse here in Western New York, which it’s proven to do nationally.

From ALS to epilepsy, medical cannabis is used to treat dozens of disorders, but there’s a big one New York state hasn’t allowed for yet; chronic pain.

It’s an indication accepted in almost every other state, and would change the game in a big way here in New York.

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