Doctors looking to prescribe marijuana-derived medicine to patients under New York state's new program can get online certification within four hours — which critics worry might not be fast enough.
The state Health Department announced its training program is now available online for physicians hoping to prescribe treatment with the medical marijuana program set to launch in January.
A four-hour course administered by a medical website called TheAnswerPage will cost doctors $249 to take a three-module certification class focused on the ins and outs of marijuana, as well as side effects of drug interaction and potential abuse or dependence.
"I am confident that the course will provide practitioners with the information they need when considering the use of medical marijuana for patients who may benefit from it," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker in a statement.
Julie Netherland, deputy director of New York's Drug Policy Alliance chapter cautioned that the state needs to step up its efforts it its to help more New Yorkers as soon as the program launches.
"If the state is going to meet their January deadline of providing medical marijuana to qualified patients," Netherland wrote in a statement, "they'll need do some aggressive outreach to get doctors enrolled, through the course, and registered to certify patients."
The state Health Department did not respond to Metro's request for information on feedback from applicants or what kind of outreach the agency might do within the next three months.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on the medical marijuana program in July 2014 after officials worked out what some describe as the strictest set of regulations for the drug, which can only be prescribed for "severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions."
"It is complicated and it required a nuanced approach," Cuomo said at the time.
The medication will only be available through non-smoking delivery systems, such as oils, edibles and vaporizers, and will only be available from 20 sanctioned dispensaries across the state.
Four dispensaries were designated for New York City: one in Queens, another in the Bronx and two in Manhattan.