Now that the medical marijuana card revolution has spread to New York, it can be easy to compare and contrast its laws to those in other states. While it’s not fair to compare MMJ card states with marijuana gold standard states – we’re looking at you, Colorado – comparing MMJ-friendly states against each other gives us a better picture of which state is best to live in if you’re a cannabis card holder.
California was a trailblazer in the legalization of medical marijuana with the introduction of Proposition 215 all the way back in 1996. For this reason, MMJ laws in the Sunshine State are some of the best in the country, leaving other MMJ states in its shadow.
Unfortunately for New York MMJ card carriers, the liberal bastion of the eastern seaboard just hasn’t caught up to California’s super lax laws. In fairness to them, they only legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2014, so we can’t exactly hold them to California’s standard, which has been over 20 years in the making.
Qualifying Ailments for MMJ
The biggest area where Californian cannabis laws outshine New York’s is by their classification of qualifying ailments. In California, there is a broad lists of qualifying conditions that allow you to apply for a medical marijuana card. This includes anything from menstrual cramps and anxiety, to cancer and everything in between. Thanks to this, anyone in need of the ameliorative effects of cannabis can access it.
New York’s list of qualifying conditions is significantly smaller, and comes with specific stipulations. To get a medical marijuana card in New York, you must suffer from a life-threatening illness. According to the medical marijuana program, this is limited to cancer, HIV, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, Huntington’s disease and chronic pain.
In addition to these limitations, your condition must present you with life-limiting symptoms in order to qualify for an MMJ card. A doctor can not, and will not, prescribe you medical cannabis outside of these conditions due to the intense pressure put on them by the New York Medical Marijuana Program.
Cannabis Cultivation Laws in New York and California
Home cultivation is strictly banned in New York, with the state’s needs for cultivation limited to production by ten companies. This presents problems for cannabis card holders who prefer to home grow due to mobility issues.
California, by contrast, allows MMJ card carriers to grow six mature plants or 12 immature plants at home once they have the required growers license. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, there doesn’t seem to be any plans on the horizon to ease home growing laws.
Consumption Laws for Medical Marijuana
Noticeably, you won’t see any medical marijuana card holders smoking MMJ in New York, as smoking the plant is strictly illegal. Governor Cuomo never gave a real explanation as to why this is, with many people speculating that he wanted to distance his MMJ program from methods of consumption that would typically be associated with recreational use. While this isn’t a major problem for most cannabis card carriers – a lot of them would steer clear from smoking due to the obvious health effects. This can be a nuisance for the small few who prefer to smoke their MMJ.
Similarly, the consumption of medical marijuana edibles is banned in New York. Unlike smoking, a significant amount of MMJ card holders would consume this way. Using edibles has a whole host of benefits – and is tasty, to boot – so some patients were very disappointed with this law. Being the bastion of MMJ goodness that it is, Californian medical marijuana law allows both smoking and the consumption of edibles once you’re suitably discreet about it.
Getting a Cannabis Card in California and New York
Acquiring a cannabis card in California is a much easier process than it is in New York. In Cali, all you need to do is complete a short, noninvasive online consultation with a licensed mental health professional and voilà, you got yourself a California medical marijuana card! In New York, it takes a little bit longer to do.
First, you must go to a doctor and tell them about your illness and your need for a medical marijuana card. It’s important to note that the doctor you go to must be registered with the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program – if they’re not, they won’t be able to prescribe you MMJ, and you’ll be left feeling disappointed. If you have a qualifying ailment and they think you’re suitable for it, they’ll recommend you for medical marijuana certification.
Following this, you’ll have to register for your Registry ID Card. You do this by applying via the Department of Health’s Online Patient Registration System. Once your application is rigorously reviewed, you’ll be sent out your ID in the mail. You’ll need to bring this with you when you visit the MMJ dispensary in New York.
New York’s medical cannabis laws are only in their infancy, so it’s pretty understandable for them to be so far behind their western cousins on the MMJ front. Thankfully, further relaxations of New York’s MMJ laws are on the horizon, with the possibility of total legalization looking likely within the next five years – not bad for a state who only decriminalized MMJ three years ago!
Until then, New York can continue to look to California for inspiration on how to make their state more MMJ-friendly.