Thus far, the New York medical marijuana law that passed in 2014 and went into effect earlier this year on January 7th is seeming to be a failure on multiple levels. The law is so restrictive that New York residents have not been able to make it through the long qualification process and in some cases even access a local doctor or distributor. Only 5 companies have been given operating licenses and 3 of those (Etain Health, PharmaCann and Vireo Health) told Times Union that they have not made any profits from medical marijuana sales. The other 2 operators (Columbia Care NY and Bloomfield Industries) refused to comment.
The law in the state is so restrictive that only 5 strains of medical marijuana oil are available as oil. It is not available in any other form. Only 639 physicians in the state are registered to be able to prescribe marijuana as many of the doctors are concerned that registering will harm their reputation. Under 6,000 patients have made it through the arduous qualifying process and debilitating conditions such as PTSD did not make the list of qualifying disorders.
The Precarious Position of New York Medical Marijuana
The cost of operating a New York medical marijuana company is so high that if more people aren’t able to become patients then the industry as a whole will not be able to continue to survive. Currently the 5 licensed manufacturers manage only 20 dispensaries throughout the state. If these dispensaries don’t survive, the medical marijuana program will not survive.
Marijuana vs. Opioids
When it comes to opioid abuse, doctors and legislators have been deeply concerned as thousands of people die every year from opioid based prescription medication. “Doctors are putting their head in the ground when we were talking about opiate abuse,” explained Sen. Diane Savino, “and cannabis isn’t even in the discussion.” In states where medical marijuana is more readily accessible, the number of patients needing prescription medication, including opioids, have dived. The opioid issue was greatly serviced by the availability of medical marijuana, which treated the same issues without risk of addiction, overdose or harmful side effects.
Gov. Cuomo’s Role
The New York medical marijuana legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried. He said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the reason why the law has had so many problems, elaborating that Gov. Cuomo deliberately made it hard for patients to access the medication. “Unfortunately the program has gotten off to a very slow start, and I think that is because the governor insisted on the law being very restrictive,” explained Gottfried.
Christine Emerson has been very vocal about pushing to have medical marijuana for her daughter, Julia, who suffers sometimes from up to 100 seizures in a month. The dosage she needs for her daughter, still isn’t sold in her area and she needs to travel far to get access to it. Until the registration process as well as access to medicine is made easier, the program may continue to have issues. Along with these adjustments, the program may need to look at offering more strains and modes of ingestion as well as expanding the list of qualifying conditions. Medical marijuana has helped thousands of people with debilitating conditions. It’s time that New York residents have legal access along with so many others across the country.