In July 2014, New York became the 23rd state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana, following a ‘lengthy and emotional’ debate in the Senate. It ultimately saw the Compassionate Care Act bill being supported by a 49-10 Senate vote.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has made no secret of his staunch anti-marijuana stance in the past, signed the bill into law, opening an 18-month window for the New York Department of Health to come up with a viable and complicit MMJ program. The completed program was subsequently launched on January 7th.
While this was great news for suffering patients who were desperately awaiting the legalization of MMJ, the bill raised a few eyebrows due to it being one of the most restrictive in the country. For the usually forward-thinking New York, it was a concerning conservative move, and one that seemed regressive in the face of pioneering MMJ states like California and Colorado. Only five MMJ producers were licensed by the DOH, and only twenty dispensaries were permitted state-wide.
It was also pretty tough to get your hands on an all-important MMJ card, as the list of qualifying conditions was limited to severe illnesses like cancer, ALS, and Parkinson’s. This made doctors wary of prescribing MMJ; if the patient’s condition was seen as borderline or questionable, the doctor could be prosecuted for illegal distribution.
Thankfully, in the months that followed, leading up to the present, mid-2017, progress was made due to near constant campaigning from MMJ advocates. It is now much easier to secure an MMJ card in New York, as the blanket term ‘chronic pain‘ was added to the list of qualifying conditions. Obviously this has a medically broader reach and gives doctors more freedom in prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment plan.
But there are a few hoops to jump through before you can access your medicine:
The first step in getting your MMJ state ID card, the all important key to the kingdom, is finding a certified medical practitioner who can recommend you medical marijuana as a remedy. Locating a doctor is quite simple in 2017; you can visit one in real life, or even avail of handy online caregivers, who will happily certify you legally for an MMJ card, as long as your condition meets the state’s requirements.
Once you have that, there’s a little bit more due process to get through; but fear not, you’re almost there.
Once certified, you head on over to https://my.ny.gov/ and find the ‘Health Applications’ icon. Once there, locate the ‘Medical Marijuana Data Management System’ link to register yourself. Bear in mind, you will need an NY.gov account to set up your registration; if you don’t have this, it’s simple to create one, and you can follow the link from the MMJ registration page.
Another important thing to keep in mind during the registration process is that you’ll need to provide proof of identity and residency in New York state. An NY-issued driver’s license is pretty perfect for this as it works for both requirements, but if you don’t drive, you can still use a passport photo taken within the last thirty days, and an official document like a utility bill or government-issued letter sent to you within the last two months.
The Compassionate Care Act states there is a $50 filing fee necessary for all applications, but the kind folks at the Department of Health are currently waiving that fee for all patients and caregivers. If you select the ‘Bill Me Later’ option during this stage, the fee will be waived and you’ll be relieved of this particular financial burden.
If your illness or condition incapacitates you, the next and final stage of the application process allows you to designate up to two caregivers who can collect your medicine for you. These caregivers have to be registered, and must bring their registration with them when collecting the MMJ, as well as their patient’s certifications.
Once you’ve completed that step, the only thing left to do is sit back and wait for your ID card to be delivered to you!
After your card arrives, there are a few things to keep in mind as you begin benefiting from your medicine. One important point is that you must keep your MMJ ID card on you whenever you’re carrying medical marijuana, not just when you buy it at the dispensary. The safest bet is probably to keep it on you at all times, like you would a bank card. That way you’ll never be caught short if someone happens to question you on your MMJ.
Also, if you change addresses, or for some reason your name, you’ll need to notify Medical Marijuana Program as soon as possible so they can issue a new card.
MMJ is still finding its feet in New York, but the signs are good that things are changing for the better. As more conditions are added to the qualifying list and it gets easier for patients to benefit from medical marijuana, distribution and dispensaries across the state should grow and multiply, making MMJ available to all who require it.