Is New York’s Medical Marijuana Program Finally Marijuana-Friendly?

May 3, 2018 06:42 pm ET
Is New York’s Medical Marijuana Program Finally Marijuana-Friendly?

Imagine this is April of 2016, exactly one year ago. If we were to talk about New York’s medical marijuana program, we would probably have several complaints about how restricted and limited it is. We’ve seen significant changes to the entire marijuana scene in NY since 2014 when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, the law that is responsible for legalizing medical marijuana in the state. The program seemed bound to fail, but since the entire atmosphere of marijuana is changing, the program started changing along with the growth of legal access to marijuana.

New York’s DOH administrates the medical marijuana program that was created by the CCA, and so far, they have authorized five “Registered Organizations” (ROs) that are responsible for distributing cannabis to the entire state of New York. It was in 2015 that the implementation of CAA started, but only in the beginning of 2016 that the ROs started distributing the products for the patients.

The ROs are responsible for the entire process of delivering medical marijuana from cultivation, harvesting, and off to manufacturing the products and distribution to dispensaries. Each RO was responsible for distributing anywhere from one to four dispensaries, which in total there are 20 dispensaries in a state with 19 million residents, a small number considering the population. Products available only came in the form capsules, liquids and oils. The dry flower, edibles or any other form of cannabis products have been strictly forbidden.

Not stopping there, the qualifying conditions in the program were left to only  severe conditions, excluding many potential patients from entering the program. To participate in the program, the process is similar to every medical marijuana-friendly state. You need to receive a recommendation by a certified physician that is registered in the program. If you’re interested in getting your medical marijuana card in New York, visit Veriheal to find out more.

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In 2017, the program enacted many reforms that made the program less restrictive, now we can say that the state  has “marijuana friendly” jurisdictions.

Early on, the program lacked patients. Knowing that the state has 19 million residents, the number of registered patients was small. When the government added chronic pain to the list of the qualifying conditions, the number of new patients that entered the program was around 7,000 people. Whether it was because chronic pain is a common consequence of a large number of diseases or another reason, it surely worked.

In November of 2017, the government expanded the program again adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. Later that year in December, the government also expanded the forms cannabis can be produced and sold. Now it is possible to sell cannabis products in New York in the forms of lozenges, patches, ointments, tablets and solid or semi-solid plant non-smokable material.

This program started very small, but is now showing itself to be user-friendly. Governor Cuomo continues to show interest in opening up the doors even more. In January of 2018, he said he wanted the state to fund a study by the Department of Health of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

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