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New York physician assistants (PA’s) are now allowed to recommend marijuana to medical marijuana patients, they are the newest group of professionals allowed to do so – after nurse practitioners became eligible to legally prescribe back in November.

New York physician assistants can also register with the state Department of Health (DOH) to certify patients to take part in New York’s medical marijuana program, the DOH is to announce tomorrow.

There is a catch – only those working under a supervising physician who is also registered to certify patients are eligible.

New York’s DOH also is set to announce that chronic pain will be a qualifying condition for the program effective next Wednesday, March 22, reports the Time Union. Qualifying conditions is defined as “any severe debilitating pain that the practitioner determines degrades health and functional capability,” that has intolerable side effects, that has lasted for or is expected to last for at least three months, and that other therapy has failed to treat or that cannot be treated by another therapy because it would be harmful.

DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is a fan of the improvements.

“Improving patient access to medical marijuana continues to be one of our top priorities, as it has been since the launch of the program,” he said in a statement. “These key enhancements further that goal. Medical marijuana is already making a difference for patients across New York State, and we are constantly evaluating the program to see how we can make it better.”

Overall, New York has a tighly-run and extremely limited medical cannabis industry. So far, only five companies are allowed to grow marijuana.

Another much-criticized limit is the rule that producers are only allowed to make non-smokeable forms of cannabis, which eliminates the possibility of patients smoking the plant.

With only 20 dispensaries statewide, the New York cannabis industry has complained about a severe lack of patients signing up – which hurts their bottom line, making it difficult to operate a thriving business