Under the advisement of the Health Department, New York will be expanding its marijuana policy in the hopes of being able to help patients to benefit from the program. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a Democrat, approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 2014. The law was signed in under extremely restrictive regulations that have made it very difficult for the industry to sustain itself. Patients have found the process for getting medical marijuana so cumbersome that many have simply not bothered to participate.
Limitations of New York’s Current Marijuana Program
Amongst the hurdles, only very few conditions qualify, there is no directory of registered doctors available and there are only 17 dispensaries, many of which do not have much of a selection, in a state of 20 million. Since medical marijuana was not made legal to smoke, some of the dispensaries only carry tinctures. Patients have complained about spending a lot of money on tinctures and not experiencing any relief due to the low dose.
Marijuana Delivery to Improve the Restrictive System
While smoking will still remain illegal, one of the new policies will allow for marijuana delivery to be made possible. This means if a local dispensary doesn’t have the product you want, it can be ordered online. The marijuana delivery is said to begin by the end of September. Another adjustment that will help many who are too sick to travel will be that nurses will now be able to certify patients to be eligible for medical marijuana. The recommendation will only last for 45 days but it is still an improvement.
Broadening Qualifying Conditions
Right now only 10 conditions qualify for medical marijuana treatment including AIDS, cancer, neuropathy, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. The office will be exploring ways to expand the list of qualifying conditions to include other debilitating illnesses such as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. A directory will be made available so that it’s easier for patients to find registered doctors who can certify them as a medical marijuana patient. For patients with no incomes or financial difficulty, the $50 registration fee will be waived.
Potential Doubling of Dispensary Locations
Currently only 5 companies are licensed to sell marijuana, each allowed to have 4 dispensaries each. The state is looking to double that number, allowing more businesses to open as well as allowing more marijuana brands and strains to be considered. The added dispensary locations and brands made available will make it easier for patients to get treatment faster, depending on how long marijuana delivery will take.
Overall, the Health Department made 12 recommendations and the governor’s office intends to implement all of them. The office has been very cautious, since marijuana still remains illegal on a federal level. Governor Cuomo’s legal counsel, Alfonso David, said, “We don’t want the federal government to come in and exercise an enormous amount of oversight and shut the entire program down. We’ve always been interested in expanding the program. We just wanted to make sure we had the data to support it.” Hopefully these changes make it a lot easier for New York patients to get the treatment they need.