Certain States Authorize Nurse Practitioners to Recommend Cannabis


Patients opting for an alternative to pharmaceutical treatments are challenging the norm.

In September 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommended to the state Public Health Council (PHC) that nurse practitioners (NPs) be allowed to certify cannabis patients, according toFreedomLeaf.

The PHC will have final word on the decision, but the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA) is confident that it will get approved, based on the wording of the 2013 medical marijuana statute.

Although NPs are included under Massachusetts law as licensed physicians to certify qualifying patients, regulators have cracked down on the process, according toFreedom Leaf.

New York has particularly restrictive regulatory and liability laws regarding medicinal marijuana. Most physicians in New York who recommend cannabis are in private practice, and to qualify under the state’s Compassionate Care Act (CCA), they must register with the Department of Health (DOH) and complete a 4-hour cannabis class.

In its 2-year review, the DOH recommended that “authorizing nurse practitioners to certify New Yorkers for medical marijuana [is] consistent with their current authority to prescribe controlled substances (including opioids) for patient diagnosed with qualifying conditions covered in the CCA,”FreedomLeafreported.

Later, Stephen Ferrara, executive director of the Nurse Practitioner Association New York State, addressed the DOH.

“It’s undisputed that New York continues to face physician shortage, particularly in the area of primary care,” Ferrara wrote, as reported byFreedom Leaf. “NPs are able to bridge this gap and are meeting patients’ needs that would otherwise go unmet, particularly in rural areas. Qualified patients should not be denied the opportunity to have their health care needs addressed simply because the patient opts to be treated by an NP.

“NPs have the necessary preparation and experience to diagnosed patients as suffering from a ‘serious condition,’ and determine whether a patient would benefit from using marijuana. The proposed regulatory changes are consistent with this skill, education, and experience of the NP community. The proposed regulation is consistent with this authorization [that] a nurse practitioner shall be considered a ‘practitioner,’ who may register to issue medical marijuana patient certifications.”

The DOH made it official on November 22, 2016, and authorized NPs to register medical cannabis patients as of November 30, 2016. Since then, more than 100 of New York’s 19,000 NPs have already completed the Medical Use of Marijuana course.

By allowing NPs to recommend cannabis, the states like New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Washington are giving patients the option to choose a practitioner that is right for them,Freedom Leafconcluded.

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