Medical marijuana has been making waves on the West Coast since it was first introduced in California in 1996. Since then, especially within the past five years or so, other states have introduced medical cannabis to patients across America. New York became the 23rd state to introduce the drug when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law in July 2014. But for a state with a liberal reputation and voting history, New York’s medical marijuana laws are notorious for being some of the most restrictive and complicated. It can be tough for patients across the U.S. to keep track of medical marijuana laws as it applies to their home state, so for the medical cannabis users of New York, we’re here to make it easy!
Medical Marijuana in New York
Although the conditions that permit medical cannabis use in California are wide, varied and loose, New York is, unfortunately, a lot more restrictive — or at least it has been for the past two years. Officially, you must suffer from a specific, severe, debilitating or life-threatening affliction such as cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s, ALS or neuropathy problems. On top of that, you must be suffering from “associated or complicating conditions” for your particular disease, specifically wasting syndrome, chronic pain, seizures or persistent muscle spasms. This rigid and largely severe conditioning is undoubtedly what gives New York its harsh reputation in the medical marijuana arena, though there are recent signs that these laws are being relaxed.
A bipartisan bill that would introduce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition was passed by the Senate Health Committee and now awaits the final hurdle of approval.
There is also heavy campaigning by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal to add menstrual cramps to the list of qualifying conditions, a motion that has seen celebrity support from Whoopi Goldberg and is currently being pushed forward.
So, although the initially restrictive measures for medical marijuana in New York might be disheartening to potential patients, there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, a light that can only grow stronger as more and more states around the U.S. begin to adopt medical marijuana laws.
How to Obtain Medical Marijuana in New York
The first step to obtaining medical marijuana in New York is to present to your physician with a condition you suspect might entitle you to medical cannabis treatment. The physician will make an assessment, and if he or she is registered with the New York Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program, they may make a recommendation for medical cannabis and issue you with a certificate.
The next step in a pretty convoluted process is to register with the Medical Marijuana Program through the Department of Health’s online Patient Registration System. After your registration is thoroughly processed, you will receive a Registry Identification Card, which is the all-important document to legally get you inside the dispensaries and start availing of medical cannabis.
Medical Marijuana Rules in New York
So now you’re through the dispensary door, you should know a thing or two about how much medical cannabis you can carry around with you and how exactly you can avail of it. Unlike California, New York has made the bizarre decision to forbid all smoking of medical marijuana. The only approved forms of taking the medicine are liquid and oil, for vaporization or inhalation, or capsules that can be administered orally. Exactly why the Department of Health has banned the smoking of medical cannabis remains a mystery. We can only guess that they wanted to draw a firm and decisive line between medical use and recreational use. Although this may change in the future, as it stands currently, smoking is a no-go for the medical cannabis patients in New York.
All the details about how you can take your medical cannabis must be written on your certification form by your physician. This means you can’t deviate from the methods of administration you enter initially. The form will also contain information about the authorized brand or use. Again, this is in sharp contrast to states like California, who are much more liberal with the methods of procurement and administration. As marijuana has now been legalized for recreational use in Cali as well, we can hope that the situation will not remain so rigid for NY; though it may take some years to catch up.
Again, this is in sharp contrast to states such as California, which is much more liberal with the methods of procurement and administration. As marijuana has now been legalized for recreational use in California as well, we can hope that the situation will not remain so rigid for New York, though it may take some years to catch up.
When you arrive at the dispensary, it is also important to note that they can only hand out a 30-day supply or less, and unfortunately, it is illegal to grow your own medical marijuana at home. State-registered dispensaries are the only way to obtain the medicine, and even then, there are many hoops to jump through.
While the medical marijuana in New York is undoubtedly restrictive and strict relative to other states, the good news is that it can only get better. It might seem like an uphill battle to avail of medical cannabis at this point in time, but there are people working behind the scenes to make sure everyone in New York gets a fair shot at availing of the many benefits of medical marijuana.