I was one of the first to commend Governor Andrew Cuomo on a job well done when he passed the medical marijuana law in New York State, but I have since been so disappointed in his handling, or mishandling, of this very issue. The governor does not seem to understand that it is a not only morally wrong but it is also negligent to pass a law like this and then simply wash your hands of the subject.
The patients in need of medicinal marijuana to whom this law applies must meet very rigorous criteria and adhere to the extremely strict guidelines set forth by this law. That being said, once patients have then registered online through the state website, waited to get their cards, sought out physicians both willing and able to prescribe marijuana, they must then find one of the few locations that offers the medication only to purchase the very cost-prohibitive medicine. For these patients, it is often worth the price for relief of their symptoms but what is the trade off? What will they have to sacrifice to afford their medication? I call it medication because that is what it is - hence the term medicinal marijuana. So, why is it not covered by insurance?
I posed this very question to Governor Cuomo's office to which I got a very generic reply. Furthermore, the medication needs to be reclassified in order to be covered by insurance. The DEA has repeatedly refused to reclassify marijuana maintaining it as a Schedule I drug along with LSD and heroin stating they have no therapeutic value and high potential for abuse. However, the DEA has placed cocaine and methamphetamine on the Schedule II list indicating they have therapeutic value. Now, I'm not sure if the DEA is simply behind in their reading materials or if the governor needs to step in and finish what he started but it is clear it is time for an intervention.
Further, I would like to mention Governor Cuomo announced that effective January 1, 2017, Narcan which is given to combat heroin and opioid overdose, will now be covered by insurance. Meanwhile, according to the DEA's very own fact sheet, there have been no known marijuana-related overdoses or deaths. Perhaps, more time and money should be spent reevaluating a broken system and looking at how we treat pain in this country. Then maybe we wouldn't be concerned with having to bring people back from the brink but, rather, treating them appropriately from the start.
Sadly, we are treating our responsible, medicinal marijuana users like criminals and forcing patients to go with prescription pain medications that are more affordable and/or covered by insurance -- but are also substantially more dangerous and less effective. If the DEA and our legislators are really concerned about drugs in our society, these issues need to be addressed. If the drug enforcement agency won't acknowledge their own fact sheets, our lawmakers need to step in and we, the constituents, need to hold them accountable once and for all.