Process for Prescribing Medical Marijuana Remains Full of Red Tape, Risks

AMHERST, N.Y. -- Lisa Valle's two-year fight for access to medical marijuana is almost over. Her daughter Maya, now 8, has epilepsy, and Valle has been a vocal advocate for the treatment to help with Maya's seizures.

"It's been a long time coming," Valle said. "I was amazed by the overwhelming support that I had from most of the local senators and Assembly people here in Western New York." 

As New York state's medical marijuana Program officially launched Thursday, Valle met with Maya's physician, Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, at PharmaCannis, a Buffalo-area dispensary on Northpointe Parkway in Amherst. They didn't have the product on site set, and Valle wouldn't have been able to receive it anyway.

Mechtler says there is a strict process involved in getting patients prescriptions for medical marijuana, including a certification from a physician registered for the program. 

"I have to evaluate them, document that they're appropriate, give them a prescription. They need to register as patients, that takes about three days, and then afterwards, they can come here and receive their medication," Mechtler said.

Mechtler says the restrictions are important, as physicians are putting their licenses in jeopardy. 

"The federal government feels this is illegal, so first of all, the state has stated that if any physicians prescribes medical marijuana inappropriately, which means lack of documentation, then that's a felony." 

Mechtler says there's also concern about medical malpractice and the lack of science that supports the use of medical marijuana. Despite the risks, Mechtler says he's one of eight physicians at DENT registered with the program, with two more expected next week. 

"The why factor is because we're physicians, and there's a compassionate nature to this. I see brain cancer patients 10 to 12 times every day, so after 25 years, their suffering means something to you." 

With the intense interest in the treatment, he's going to develop a process to screen patients, and Mechtler's advice to anyone who thinks they need it is to talk to their own doctor first. 

"If they're not registered, that physician can send a letter, or give the patient a letter saying he or she feels the diagnosis and the treatment is appropriate." 

Though she wasn't able to take any product home with her, Valle did get a chance to meet the general manager of PharmaCannis.

"I'm hoping within the next couple weeks I should be able to get my daughter registered and medicine at our house," Valle said. "It is exciting, hopefully, I mean, it's just a little bit longer."


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