Remember when medical marijuana became legal in the State of New York?

Well, if you don't, it happened in August. At that time, the New York State Health Department decreed that five organizations would be legally permitted to grow and sell marijuana for medical use in New York State.

It took five months, but then, triumphantly, New York City's first-ever medical marijuana dispensary, Columbia Care, opened in Union Square in January.

What did we think was going to happen when Columbia Care opened on January 7th? Well, if we're being honest, we thought NYC would transform into a wonderful, marijuana free-for-all overnight.

Of course, though, this is reality. So that's not what happened.

According to Crain's New York, by January 28th, 306 physicians had registered with the state and helped 465 patients get certified for the medical marijuana program.

Still, though, there are tons of New Yorkers suffering from epilepsy, cancer, and other serious maladies for which medical marijuana treatment would really help.

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The problem? The state's Health Department has refused to publish a list of physicians registered to recommend the drug, which makes it difficult for patients who need medical marijuana to find the doctors who could prescribe it.

There's an acupuncturist on Long Island named Steven Mrowzinski, who's exploited this hurdle and formed a business of referring potential cannabis patients to registered doctors.

Mrowzinski's had requests from 50 people seeking doctors who are a match for their medical needs, and by the end of January, he'd compiled a list of 35 registered doctors around the state who could prescribe it.

His business is called Therapeutic Consultants, and starting in March, he'll start charging doctors a fee to be on his list.

Still, some doctors that are registered are still reluctant to prescribe it. Northwell Health, a hospital system in New York, has registered doctors that are holding off on prescribing the drug until the hospital adopts uniform guidelines.

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"Given our size - we have nearly 3,000 full-time physicians - it's important for us to develop single standards and best practices that we can apply across our health system," said a Northwell spokesman.

Northwell's process is expected to take two months. 

"We are in the process of increasing the level of comfort, because doctors have not talked about this in medical school," said Dr. Souhel Najjar, executive director of the neurology service line at Northwell.

Obviously, patients are frustrated with the slow-moving availability of the newly-legalized medication.

"As a patient, I fought for medical cannabis so I could enter a healing state with it," said Donna Romano, who could use cannabis to treat her multiple sclerosis and seizure disorder. "I want pharmaceutical-grade cannabis, and a doctor who has learned about it and can guide me."

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The next step? Doctors will have to start learning about marijuana and its healing properties in medical school. As of now, the people most knowledgeable about cannabis are not doctors.

These are all good moves in the right direction, but we have a long way to go before medicinal marijuana is as accessible as it needs to be. For that to happen, it'll require a major overhaul in the theoretical way of thinking about the drug.

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[via Crains] [Feature Image Courtesy WAMC.org] 

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