Who Can Prescribe Medical Marijuana In New York?

When New York decriminalized cannabis in 2019, it opened the doors for many people with various health conditions to use medical marijuana to treat their ailments. Since then, both recreational and medical cannabis have been legalized in the state. But for those with qualifying conditions, getting a medical marijuana card may seem like a daunting task.

There are several key steps that need to be taken to get a card in the state. First, you must have a verified condition that is being treated through other means with your primary care physician. You must then speak to your doctor about medical marijuana and how it could benefit you. From there, you’ll need to qualify and apply for all the proper documentation. While this seems like an arduous process, for those with certain conditions, it could be well worth it. 

medical marijuana plants
Image by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash: What qualifies for medical marijuana in NY?

Who can prescribe medical marijuana in New York?

As mentioned above, there is a set group of physicians you can see to get approved for a medical marijuana card. Not all appointments need to be done face-to-face; in fact, it’s possible to obtain a medical marijuana card through an online application at MMJ Recs.

Types of medical professionals that can approve a medical marijuana application include:

  • Family physicians
  • Oncologists
  • Neurologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Specialty physicians that work in internal medicine, pain management, infectious disease, and emergency care
  • Rheumatologists

Qualifying conditions for medical card in NY

The qualifying conditions for a medical card vary from state to state. When it comes to the state of New York, their list is clearly outlined and consists of several different health disorders. The conditions considered for a medical marijuana card are usually severe, debilitating, or possibly life-threatening.

Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in New York include:

  • Cancer
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • A spinal cord injury with spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic pain that disrupts daily life and functional capabilities (medical marijuana in this instance is to be used as an alternative treatment to opioids or in the instance of substance abuse disorder)

These conditions must severely hinder a person’s ability to participate in typical daily activities and can be accompanied by certain associated conditions such as:

  • Cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome
  • Severe or chronic pain that inhibits daily life
  • Severe nausea that causes a person to be unable to eat throughout the day
  • Seizures
  • Muscles spasms that are both severe and persistent
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
hand holding medical marijuana buds
Image by Nicole Plunkett on Unsplash: What type of doctor can prescribe medical marijuana in NY? 

How can I get a medical card in New York?

Getting a medical marijuana card in New York requires you to seek out a doctor registered with the Medical Marijuana Program who has given the consent for their name to be publicly listed. Once you’ve found such a doctor, you must be certified to receive medical marijuana based on your symptoms and condition. Following your certification, you will have to register with the state of New York and create an account on their website.

During their registration process, you may wish to designate two people as caregivers on your application. This will give those caregivers the ability to get a medical card on your behalf. If a caregiver or caregivers are listed, they must also register with the state in the same way you did as the patient.

Following the registration, a temporary registration number will be given to you or your caregivers, and you can use it with a government-issued identification. This government ID must have a photo to be eligible. With your temporary number and your photo ID, you will then be able to go to any approved medical marijuana dispensary and purchase cannabis products. The card must be brought to the dispensary with every visit for you to be given access to medical marijuana products. Whenever you have MMJ products on your person, you must also have the card with you.

How much is a medical marijuana card in NY?

To obtain a medical marijuana card in New York, you must pay a registration application fee of $50. This fee covers the costs associated with the application. At the time of writing, the $50 fee for the registration application is being waived for all patients and their caregivers due to the Compassionate Care Act.

Featured image by Tania Fernandez on Unsplash

Are New York’s Medical Marijuana Laws Going to Relax Any Time Soon?

New York State’s new medical marijuana program, which came into effect on the 6th January 2017, has been criticized by a lot of people for being one of the most restrictive, limited, and non-user-friendly medical cannabis programs in the entire country. And these criticisms are certainly not unfounded. The New York medical marijuana card program is extremely limited in its current form.

There is an abundance of very strict and highly limiting rules and regulations wrapped tightly around the New York medical card program, and as a result of this, many physicians, providers, and patients feel severely hamstrung and unable to get optimal value from the program.

Currently only a limited list (much more limited than in other parts of the country) of ailments and conditions qualify a person to be treated with medical marijuana. Initially, only cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy Huntington’s disease, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and neuropathy qualified a person to be prescribed MMJ. More recently, on 22nd March 2017, chronic pain was added to the list. It was hoped that rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, and dystonia would qualify a person, but the Department of Health has refused at this time to designate these conditions a suitable to qualify a person for a New York medical cannabis card.

The laws are currently very strict regarding dispensaries. There are very few dispensaries in the state in which to use a New York marijuana card. The new program only allows 20 dispensaries in total to operate in the entire state. This situation makes life quite difficult for many MMJ patients.

The New York medical marijuana program is strict and not at all user-friendly.

The only dispensary on Manhattan, located near the 3rd Avenue subway station, is far from the welcoming, educational mecca to medical marijuana that many of the dispensaries in other, more MMJ-friendly states are. It is a tightly controlled building with unmanned security gates (almost prison-like) that patients get buzzed through. It is clean and efficient but it has no interesting edibles or innovative new strains of smokable herb to explore – a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of delightful medical cannabis treats it most certainly is NOT! There is zero edible or smokable MMJ for sale. Only tinctures and oils that can be taken from an inhaler or vaporizer are allowed in New York State, and the prices are higher than in most other states in the country. Insurance companies in the state do not cover a patient for medical marijuana use.

The certificate provided to a patient by a doctor recommending MMJ use must have stated upon it the type of MMJ they should use, the method of administration and the amount – this prevents a patient from experimenting with different types of medical cannabis and different methods of ingestion, which is very limiting.

New York residents are hoping the list of MMJ qualifying ailments will grow in the future.

Home cultivation is still strictly prohibited by the New York State program.

So for these reasons the medical marijuana program in New York State is currently very tight and restrictive. But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. There seems to be a very slow but gradual creep towards opening up taking place. A more relaxed and inclusive regime may not be too far away.

One gets the impression that, even though change and movement is slow, the vast majority of changes that occur over the coming years will result in more relaxed laws.

Despite the fact that the list of qualifying conditions is currently very restricted, there is a definite cautious open-mindedness detectable from the scientists at the Department of Health that are responsible for investigating what ailments should qualify a patient for MMJ treatment. While they are currently of the opinion that a shorter list of conditions is treatable by MMJ than their compatriots in most other states, they have reassured the public adamantly that they are keeping up-to-date on all new research and are completely willing to change their minds as soon as compelling evidence presents itself. This bodes well for a future relaxation of the laws regarding qualifying medical conditions.

This willingness to change the specifics of the program was demonstrated in March 2017 when ‘chronic pain’ was added to the list of qualifying ailments, opening the door to many new potential patients.

And the progress continues. PTSD looks likely to become a qualifying condition in the near future. A bipartisan bill that will designate PTSD a ‘qualifying condition’ has already passed the Senate Health Committee and is currently awaiting approval by the Senate.

Another ailment that looks like it will imminently be designated a ‘qualifying condition’ is dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps). Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has introduced a bill to allow menstrual cramps to be treated with MMJ. She is confident that the bill will be passed. ‘We’re a progressive state. It did take 20 years to get medical marijuana to be the law, but we’re going to work hard to get it passed.’

It seems like her optimism is justified. The cannabis card New York program is currently tight and restrictive, but as Rosenthal says, New York is a traditionally progressive state, and its MMJ program, although currently restrictive, does seem to be moving towards a more relaxed and open place, slowly but surely.

Which Ailments Are Covered Under New York Medical Marijuana Laws?

If you’ve read anything about medical marijuana, it’s likely that you’re aware of the very forgiving laws in California and are open to trying different strains and methods to treat your illness or condition. From anxiety, depression, eating disorders and multiple sclerosis, to cancer and Parkinson’s disease, medical marijuana can help alleviate many symptoms of different illnesses or conditions.

However, not all states have the same laws and New York has a particularly strict medical marijuana program that only covers certain illnesses and ailments.

Cancer

MMJ Recs - Hospital Room with Beds

Although some think that using medical marijuana for cancer symptoms shouldn’t be allowed, many have found that MMJ has helped alleviate the pain associated with cancer.

Cancer can be defined as a condition that is typified by abnormal cell growth. It can occur at any site on the body and means that tumors form due to cells reproducing too quickly. As a result of these tumors, other symptoms can occur including pain, bleeding, coughing, visible lumps and blood in urine or stool, depending on the site of the cancer. It can be easily treated through surgery or chemotherapy or can be a terminal illness – depending on the cancer’s location and the time of diagnosis.

HIV/AIDS

HIV is a virus that attacks the human immune system, destroying white blood cells and thus the body’s ability to fight illness. AIDS is the associated syndrome that occurs when HIV progresses into obvious illness. Symptoms of AIDS include pneumonia, Kaposi’s sarcoma  (a very rare form of skin cancer), sweating and diarrhea. HIV is transmitted through blood and sexual fluids and is most commonly passed on through sexual intercourse, sharing of contaminated needles for intravenous drug use and from mother to baby in utero.

ALS

MMJ Recs - Hospice Worker with Patient in Wheelchair

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a severely debilitating disease that causes people to lose all muscle function.

ALS is also known as motor neurone disease, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it affects neurones that control muscles in the body. It means that those affected by this condition slowly lose control of all muscle function and become unable to walk, speak, feed themselves or control bodily functions. It is a slow-killing disease and most sufferers die from losing the ability to breathe while sleeping.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that controls movement in the body. It is characterized by an unstable posture, muscle shaking and rigid limbs. It is slow-progressing and really impacts the lives of those affected, as it becomes impossible to take care of oneself without assistance due to incessant muscle shaking and posture limitations.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease that affects the coverings of nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It can present a variety of differing symptoms depending on the type of MS present, but symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, general pain, diarrhea and muscle spasms. While it is not typically defined as a terminal illness, it does have the potential to limit the life expectancy of those who are diagnosed with it.

Damage to the Nervous Tissue of the Spinal Cord with Objective Neurological Indication of Intractable Spasticity

Intractable spasticity is a muscle control disorder that is usually cause by trauma to the brain or spinal cord. It is most common in those who have suffered an accident such as a car collision, fall or abuse. It is defined by spasms, deformities and generalized muscle and bone pain.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterised by seizures. The severity and frequency of the seizures varies from person to person and is also dependent on the type of epilepsy diagnosed. It can be present from birth or can be brought on by brain injuries, brain tumors or strokes. Epilepsy diagnosed in childhood can sometimes disappear with the onset of puberty.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of autoimmune illnesses that involve the ulceration or inflammation of the bowel and lower intenstine. The most common types of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions are often very painful and can limit the sufferer’s ability to live an independent life due to the need to be close to a toilet.

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is nerve damage that an affect any part of the body. Its cause can be obvious or totally unknown and symptoms include tingling, numbness, tremors and extreme pain.

Chronic Pain as Defined by 10 NYCRR §1004.2(a)(8)(xi)

The NYC MMJ bill defines chronic pain as “any severe debilitating pain that the practitioner determines degrades health and functional capability; where the patient has contraindications, has experienced intolerable side effects, or has experienced failure of one or more previously tried therapeutic options; and where there is documented medical evidence of such pain having lasted three months or more beyond onset, or the practitioner reasonably anticipates such pain to last three months or more beyond onset.”

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a genetically inherited illness that results in the destruction of brain cells. Symptoms usually begin in late thirties or early forties and include random muscle jerks, subtle changes in personality and random eye movements. Sufferers then degenerate further and sleep and muscle control are affected. Death most commonly occurs within twenty years of diagnosis from pneumonia, heart disease or suicide.

MMJ Recs - Close Up Cannabis Plant

Medical marijuana is helpful from a wide range of symptoms, from something serious, like cancer, to something more common, like nausea.

As well as one of the conditions above, you need to be suffering from one of the following associated symptoms or conditions as a result of your illness:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe or chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures
  • Severe or persistent muscles spasms 

Obviously, it is far more complex a process to get an MMJ card in New York than in other states. The best thing to do is to speak to your primary care physician if you suffer from one of the above conditions and to get their advice on if this is a good route of treatment for you to pursue.

Why New York MMJ Patients Will Need a Medical Marijuana Card After 2018

Compared to its sister on the west coast, New York is surprisingly conservative when it comes to medical marijuana. Since 1996, the Golden State has allowed people with a range of illnesses and conditions access to this miracle drug, and it has improved countless lives since then.

However, New York has only legalized medical marijuana in 2014, and the conditions that you must meet to qualify are long and strict. Coming into 2018, there are several things that you’ll need to know if you’re a New Yorker who wants to use medical marijuana.

Conditions for Medical Marijuana Use

MMJ Recs - Hopsice Patient and Worker

If you live in New York and want to use medical marijuana, make sure your condition is on the approved list set by the government.

Firstly, the list of conditions that render you eligible for MMJ is quite limited in New York. There are only certain ailments that qualify you to receive medical marijuana, and the laws are very strict in adhering to the recommendation of MMJ to them.

If you suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord damage with intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, chronic pain, chronic nausea, severe muscle spasms, cachexia or Huntington’s Disease, you will be eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, but depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are sadly not covered.

The good news is that, effective in 2017, medical professionals will be able to recommend treatment of medical marijuana to patients online, and they will not have to undergo an in-person consultation in order to receive their medical marijuana card. However, it is not the only documentation that you will need in order to receive an MMJ recommendation.

MMJ Recs - Medical Doctor

Effective this year, medical professionals can recommend treatment of MMJ to patients online.

As well as the recommendation from a healthcare professional, you will need to gather your medical records, outlining that you suffer from one of the approved conditions for treatment by medical marijuana. You then have to submit these documents, along with proof that you are a resident of the state of New York, to the state authority. Then you will receive your medical marijuana card, which will allow you access to state dispensaries.

Another thing to remember when applying for a medical marijuana card in New York is that your medical professional will have to recommend the strain for your treatment and you will only be able to buy this specific strain. This eliminates any chance for experimentation with different treatment types and forms.

It is very important to have a clear and honest discussion with the medical professional who is carrying out your consultation so that they can decide what is the best course of treatment for you.

All About MMJ Laws in New York

Since bringing in its laws in 2014, New York is slowly but surely relaxing them. Certain conditions have been added since the laws were brought in and there is no limitation on the potential of conditions that can be added. This is at the discretion of the state governor, so depending on the politics of upcoming politicians, more conditions may be added to assist citizens of New York.

Campaigners are fighting for looser laws that will help more patients, but this will take time and is dependent on sympathetic legislators taking medical marijuana seriously as a legitimate treatment for numerous ailments.

MMJ Recs - MMJ Rolled

Dispensaries in New York, which are limited in numbers, can only dispense certain forms of medical marijuana to patients.

Laws regarding dispensaries in New York are also very strict. Dispensaries can only dispense certain forms of medical marijuana to patients depending on their recommendations, and there is a limit on the amount of dispensaries that can be operated by the same owner. Dispensaries must also be fully registered with the state and will undergo regular inspections to ensure that they are operating to the full letter of the law.

It is also very important to remember that the personal cultivation of medical marijuana is still illegal, despite medical marijuana being legal. If you are able to access medical marijuana in New York, you are still unable to grow it for yourself. All MMJ must be accessed and purchased through a state-sanctioned dispensary through the form recommended for you by a medical professional. You will be liable for legal consequences if you grow your own medical marijuana.

MMJ Recs - Smoking Shisha

As more people become educated about the benefits of medical marijuana, more states will start to legalize it.

While these limitations are frustrating, especially given the much more liberal laws in other states, the future is likely to be easier for medical marijuana patients. As stigma is reduced and the world at large becomes more educated about the benefits of MMJ, legislation will follow.

The public are mostly sympathetic to patients being treated with medical marijuana and the stereotype of stoners trying to circumvent the legal system is slowly but surely being demolished. The best thing to do if you live in New York is to live to the letter of the law, carry on taking your medication as advised, and hopefully as time goes on and the law is relaxed, everyone who needs treatment with MMJ will be allowed to access it in New York.

Why New York Medical Marijuana Laws Are Stricter Than in California

Why would anyone choose to leave sunny California? The weather is amazing, the people are chill and most importantly, the medical marijuana laws are pretty relaxed.

The Golden State was the first to bring MMJ laws onto its books. While many states have followed suit, not many have as relaxed laws as California does. There is also a great rivalry between the east and west coasts, so how do Californian medical marijuana laws measure up to those in New York state?

MMJ Laws in New York and California

MMJ Recs - Marijuana Buds

The main difference between New York medical marijuana laws and California medical cannabis laws are the forms that are legal to consume.

The short answer is that New York has far stricter rules on medical marijuana than California. While California has had MMJ laws on the books since 1996, New York only brought in limited medical marijuana laws on 2014.

The main difference between MMJ in the states is the forms that are legal. In California, you can consume smoking cannabis, edibles, tinctures and pretty much any kind of medical marijuana. However, in New York, there are strict laws in place relating to what can be consumed. Patients may only consume MMJ via oils or sprays to be vaporized or consumed orally. Edibles and cannabis cigarettes are still strictly illegal.

You are also not permitted to grow medical marijuana for your own use, whereas this is permitted in California. This can present issues for patients who experience the best results from cannabis cigarettes or edibles, as opposed to tinctures, oils or vapes.

Medical marijuana benefits different people in different ways, and the forms that you consume them in can often have differing effects. It’s unfortunate that New York state cannot cater to all of its medical marijuana patients, some of which live with chronic and unmanageable pain, but a broader law may come into effect with continued campaigning.

Obtaining Medical Marijuana in New York and California

MMJ Recs - golden-gate-bridge

In California, the process of obtaining an MMJ card is much easier than obtaining one in New York.

The ways in which you obtain a medical marijuana card in both states are also slightly different. In California, you can visit a medical marijuana professional for an in-person or online consultation. They will ask you the nature of your condition and prescribe medical cannabis to you based on your needs. You then receive your MMJ card and go to your dispensary to pick the form and strain of medical marijuana you need.

In New York, things are far stricter. Patients must suffer from a specified condition that appears on a list that has been ratified by the Commissioner. These conditions include Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic pain (which is very strictly defined) HIV/AIDS, cancer or epilepsy. This means that you need to fit very strict medical criteria before you can even consider seeking a medical marijuana card.

After you have deemed yourself suitable for medical marijuana treatment, you have to visit a registered medical marijuana practitioner. All medical marijuana practitioners must be registered with New York State and noted on a public register. When you visit an MMJ practitioner in New York, they will also decide the appropriate dosage and strain for you, as well as the form you consume it in.

MMJ Recs - Cannabis Plant

When you visit an MMJ practitioner in California, you get to decide your appropriate dosage and strain.

In California, that decision is left up to the patient. For example, you can go to a medical marijuana practitioner in New York State, who will decide you need a certain strain, in a certain amount to be administered and consumed in a certain form. You then bring the “prescription” to a dispensary, who can only give you the medical cannabis that the registered practitioner has decided is most appropriate for you.

As medical marijuana practitioners must register with the state, so too must patients. When you receive your MMJ certificate from your practitioner, you must register as a medical marijuana patient online. You will then be sent a card, which will allow you to receive your treatment. You cannot receive any treatment without your identification card.

Dispensaries in New York are also required to be fully registered and can only carry pre-approved products that can be designated to patients. While there is a wide variety of ways to take medical marijuana in California, practitioners in New York are only allowed to certify patients to take certain types and brands, with varying rates of THC and CBD.

As you can see, the measures in New York are far stricter than those in California, and this mostly just comes down to stigma. In California, MMJ has been around for over twenty years, and most citizens are comfortable with the concept, as it has changed so many lives for the better. New York is still coming around to the idea, and is being incredibly strict so as not to be seen to be condoning recreational drug use.

Hopefully, with time, New York will be able to relax its incredibly strict MMJ laws and allow more people access to a lifeline that has changed people from being in so much pain that they cannot function, to being functional members of society.

 

California vs New York: Which State is Best for Medical Cannabis?

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 cancerHIV, 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

MMJ Recs - Cannabis Buds

One downside for MMJ card holders in New York: it’s strictly banned in the state to grow cannabis at home.

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.

MMJ Recs - NYC Traffic

Just like sitting in New York traffic can be a painfully long process, so can acquiring a New York MMJ card.

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.

 

Will Medical Marijuana in New York Match California in Popularity?

The Californian medical marijuana card program is a shining beacon of MMJ best practice. Those who need to get an MMJ card can do so easily, and without many stipulations delaying the process. As Cali MMJ card holders face so little roadblocks in accessing marijuana, they’re rarely left unnecessarily suffering. This ease of access means that medical marijuana is naturally very popular in California.

California not only makes getting a medical marijuana card very easy, but it also has the infrastructure in place to deal with the high demand. Dispensaries are dotted generously throughout the state, meaning that regardless of where you are, you can easily acquire MMJ.

Unfortunately, not all states can mirror Cali’s wonderful MMJ laws. While New York has been making some concrete steps towards becoming more MMJ-friendly since its legalization in 2014, roadblocks still exist for medical marijuana card holders looking to acquire the plant.

Access to MMJ in New York

MMJ Recs - NYC at Night

Because many physicians in New York are reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana, people outside of Manhattan have a very tough time accessing it.

As New York’s medical marijuana laws are still in their infancy, doctors – especially doctors outside of the city – are unsure of how to toe the line in regards who they can and can’t prescribe MMJ to. For this reason, a lot of physicians around the state are very reluctant to prescribe MMJ, with most of them point blank refusing to prescribe it at all for fear that they’d lose their license. This means that medical marijuana card carriers living outside of Manhattan have a very tough time accessing MMJ.

A lot of prospective MMJ card holders simply cannot make hour-long trips to willing doctors due to the fact that they are oftentimes limited in their movements by their ailment. This unfortunate situation means that the popularity of medical marijuana in New York is dwarfed by that of California.

Medical Marijuana Ailments

In New York, the list of qualifying ailments deemed suitable for the medical marijuana program is much shorter than that of the Sunshine State. In most cases, you must have a life-threatening illness such as MS, AIDS or cancer in order to be considered for the program. This is further complicated by the fact that your illness must also present you with significant life-limiting symptoms like chronic pain or muscle spasms.

A huge number of Californians would have their medical marijuana card in order to treat ailments that are not deemed suitable in New York. Medical marijuana is used to treat all manner of illnesses in California like depression, anxiety, epilepsy and PTSD, and these generous laws are what give life to its popularity there.

Until New York loosens what it considers to be an allowable condition for MMJ treatment, the popularity of medical marijuana in the state will continue to dwindle.

New York vs California MMJ Laws

The banning of certain consumption methods is another thing attributed to the low popularity of medical marijuana in New York. There is a blanket ban on smoking MMJ across the entirety of the state. Most people attribute this to the fact that weed skeptic Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to distance New York’s medical marijuana laws from consumption methods that would typically be associated with recreational users, rather than users with MMJ cards.

For this same suspected reason, the consumption of medical marijuana edibles in New York is banned, too. While most MMJ card carriers could get over the smoking ban, banning edibles is a tougher pill to swallow. As ingesting your medical marijuana has tons of benefits, it is the consumption method of choice for a lot of cannabis card holders across the country. The outright ban of edibles has thusly negatively impacted upon the popularity of MMJ in New York.

A lot of the contributing factors as to why medical marijuana is so much less popular in New York than in California can easily be put down to the fact that New York’s medical marijuana laws are much younger than California’s – by a whopping 18 years! Having legalized MMJ all the way back in 1996, California weed legislation has gone through many evolutions, eventually giving rise to the super MMJ-friendly state we have today.

MMJ Recs - Golden Gate Bridge

Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, making the Golden State a trailblazer for other MMJ-friendly states.

As weed has been a mainstay of Californian health law since the 90s, it’s more normalized there than it is in New York. Adding to that the fact that recently California announced that it would be legalizing the drug entirely, it’s no wonder that the popularity here outnumbers that of New York so starkly.

Recent New York Medical Marijuana Bills

Thankfully for New Yorkers, the Empire State is moving closer and closer to full legalization of marijuana every day. Recently, two bills were submitted by NY legislators that would potentially create regulations that would see marijuana being taxed and controlled in the same way that alcohol currently is. Not only would this create a huge influx of revenue for the state, but it would also mean that those caught in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana would face no criminal charges – way to go New York!

Eventually, medical marijuana will be just as popular in New York as it is in California. Until then, we’ve just gotta be happy that New York – like a lot of other states – is slowly but surely moving towards being much more MMJ-friendly.

Why Getting an MMJ Card in New York is Harder Than in California

It’s pretty safe to say that California medical marijuana card holders have it pretty easy. MMJ laws in the Sunshine State are famously lax, meaning that acquiring a cannabis card can be done in a few short minutes from the comfort of your own home. Soon, California’s marijuana laws will become even better when state wide legalization is introduced – way to go Cali!

Unfortunately, on the east coast, New York MMJ card carriers aren’t afforded the same weed friendly legislation. Since its legalization in 2014 by Andrew Cuomo, medical marijuana in New York hasn’t been easy to come by. Acquiring an MMJ card has been a legal minefield fraught with uncertainty. As a result, many people suffering from medical marijuana compatible illnesses have had to go without the miracle plant.

New York’s Case Against Medical Marijuana

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Governor Cuomo and his department don’t want the New York Medical Marijuana Program to be abused, so they’re making it very difficult to get a MMJ card.

The legislation of medical marijuana in New York came as a surprise to some as Governor Cuomo does not support the decriminalization of the plant. It is thought that the tough MMJ laws could be as a direct result of this. Although Cuomo does recognize the usefulness of medical marijuana as a form of treatment for certain illnesses, he is vehemently opposed to decriminalization, so it’s natural that he would want to keep MMJ laws as tough as possible to safeguard them from abuse.

Interestingly – and in spite of Cuomo’s beliefs – New York state lawmakers recently submitted two bills which could potentially pave the way for a state wide legalization of marijuana for recreational use. The bills – namely the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act – would create a system whereby marijuana would be taxed and regulated in the same way that alcohol is, creating a new market and providing millions of dollars in Revenue for the state.

Under this law, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana would be legal for people aged 18 and over, and people aged 21 and over could legally buy cannabis from state licensed dispensaries, regardless of whether they had an MMJ card or not.

Until total legalization is introduced, it’s unlikely that getting a medical marijuana card will become much easier. Cuomo and his department don’t want the New York Medical Marijuana Program to be abused and thus, make getting the card particularly difficult. While these conservative views are restricting access to the plant for those in need, they see this as a necessary evil to stop people who they think shouldn’t be consuming it.

New York’s MMJ Laws

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One thing that majorly irked medical marijuana card holders in New York: the state banned edibles.

New York’s stringent MMJ laws are none the more evident than in the fact that smoking medical marijuana is strictly forbidden within the state. While smoking is not the consumption method of choice for most MMJ card holders – due to the obvious detrimental health effects – for the few users who prefer to smoke, this is problematic.

Edibles are similarly banned in New York, which irked medical marijuana card holders further. When this news was announced, some cannabis card holders were at a loss as to why these strict rules regarding consumption methods were enforced. It’s likely that the New York MMJ Program wanted to distance itself from recreational cannabis use as much as possible, thus outlawing methods of consumption that are more typically associated recreational users.

Type of Conditions

In the same vein, the list of qualifying conditions that deem you suitable for a medical marijuana card is considerably shorter in New York than it is in California. By and large, to obtain an MMJ card in New York you must be suffering from a life-threatening illness such as HIV or cancer, and your ailment must present you with associative and complicating conditions like seizures or chronic pain.

Thankfully, these laws have become slightly more lax in recent times, as PTSD and chronic pain have been added to the list of qualifying conditions.

Access to a Licensed MMJ Physician

Due to the uncertainty of New York’s MMJ Laws, unless you live close to New York City, it can be hard to find you a doctor who will happily recommend you for a medical marijuana card. Prospective MMJ card applicants across the state have consistently been disappointed, as their own trusted physicians refuse to recommend them for the program should, they step out of line and potentially lose their practice.

The best way to overcome this problem is to apply for your medical marijuana card online. This way you can complete your consultation with a state licensed physician from the comfort of your own home, and have it posted out to you within a few short days.

Essentially, it’s harder to get an MMJ card in New York than in California because the New York Medical Marijuana Program is still in its infancy. California legalized medical marijuana all the way back in 1996 – nearly 20 years before New York – so it’s no wonder that Cali is more weed-friendly than the Empire State.

Thankfully, New York is catching up fast, and it looks likely that we’ll see the full legalization of marijuana within the next five years. Until then, if you need access to MMJ in New York, it’s prudent that you apply for you medical marijuana card online today!

Getting Your New York Medical Marijuana Card

New York’s Health Commissioner Howard Zucker recently announced that chronic pain has been added to the list of medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical cannabis use in the state. This change in the law opens the door to many thousands of potential MMJ patients who may want to treat their chronic pain conditions with medical marijuana. If you decide to get a New York medical marijuana card, here are some things you need to remember.

Qualifying Conditions

The medical conditions that qualify you to get a New York medical marijuana card are cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, epilepsy, spinal cord injury with spasticity, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, or chronic pain. Whichever condition you have, it must also be accompanied by one of the following symptoms: severe nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, cachexia or wasting syndrome, or severe or chronic pain.

The March 22, 2017, introduction of chronic pain as a condition that qualifies a patient for medical marijuana use considerably broadened the scope of who can use MMJ in New York. Chronic pain is a symptom of many medical conditions, so its inclusion on the list makes it possible for many thousands of people with a whole host of illnesses that up until recently had been excluded from availing of medical marijuana.

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Chronic pain has been added to the list of medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical cannabis use in New York.

It is important to remember that, at this point in time, conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis do not qualify a person to get a cannabis card in New York.

Getting a New York Medical Marijuana Card

The first step to getting a medical marijuana card in New York is to contact a New York Department of Health-registered physician so they can decide whether you are eligible to use medical cannabis to treat your specific condition and symptoms.

On your doctor’s certificate, it should state the brand and form of approved medical cannabis product you are being prescribed, the administration method, any limitations on the use of that product as well as any dosage recommendations.

Registering as a Medical Cannabis User

Once you have your MMJ certificate from a registered physician, you need to register as a medicinal cannabis user with the New York Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program (this can be done through their online Patient Registration System). There is a non-refundable $50 application fee. But the department is currently waiving this fee for all patients and designated caregivers. To have the fee waived, select “Bill Me Later” when completing your online registration. When you have completed registration you will receive a Registry Identification Card, usually within seven working days. This Registry Identification Card is your marijuana card. Hurray!

When you have completed registration you will receive a Registry Identification Card, usually within seven working days. This Registry Identification Card is your marijuana card. Hurray!

Understanding Caregiver Rules

If a patient is a minor (under 18 years old) or incapable of consenting to medical treatment for some reason, the application can be made by a caregiver. A patient can have up to two caregivers. A caregiver can have up to five patients. A caregivers must be registered with the Department of Health, be over 21 years old, be a resident of New York and have a New York driver’s license or ID card, be either a parent or guardian of the patient, a person designated by the patient’s parent or guardian, or a suitable person approved by the Department of Health if no parent or legal guardian is available.

Buying Medical Marijuana in New York

Your New York medical marijuana card allows you to buy medical cannabis products in any one of the state’s dispensaries. The products available in New York dispensaries are limited to oils and liquids for vaporization or administration by inhaler, as well as orally administered tablets. Smoking cannabis is still banned, as are edibles.

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Even with your New York medical marijuana card, smoking medical cannabis is still banned, as are edibles.

There are two mandated medical marijuana products that all New York dispensaries stock. One has a low-THC high-CBD ratio, and the other is a 50050 ratio. Each dispensary also has a variety of other MMJ products available that you can buy with your New York medical marijuana card.

Your card enables you to purchase a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products.

Sadly, your New York medical marijuana card does not allow you to cultivate your own herb in your own home. Hopefully, this will become an option in the not too distant future.

New York has one of the country’s newest programs, and it is still a little bit too limited, but at least the state has now got the ball rolling. The number of weed card holders in New York is rising steadily, and hopefully, the program will be tweaked and improved in the years to come.

The Ultimate Guide to Medical Cannabis in New York

New York joined the medical cannabis revolution Jan. 6, 2017, albeit quite tentatively. Its program is limited by very strict rules and regulations, with tight restrictions in every direction. Even in its tightly bound state, New York’s new MMJ program is, of course, better than nothing.

The list of medical conditions that qualify a patient to use medical cannabis in New York is much more limited than in other MMJ-friendly states. HIV and AIDS, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, neuropathy, Huntington’s disease, spinal cord injury with spasticity, and chronic pain are the only conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana use. Additionally, the patient’s condition must include as a symptom either cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or persistent muscle spasms, nausea, seizures, or severe or chronic pain.

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The Department of Health is keeping an open mind about what conditions should qualify a patient for a New York medical marijuana card.

Chronic pain only became an eligible condition on March 22, 2017. This welcome addition makes it possible for a lot more people who suffer in the state to get a New York medical marijuana card. It also shows that the Department of Health is keeping an open mind about what conditions should qualify a patient.

Regarding the addition of chronic pain to the list, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker recently said: “Improving patient access to medical marijuana continues to be one of our top priorities, as it has been since the launch of the program. These key enhancements further that goal.”

Although chronic pain has been added to the list, it was recently announced that Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis would not make a patient eligible. Scientists at the Department of Health researched a slew of papers and decided that evidence was not yet sufficient that these conditions would be adequately helped by medical cannabis use. However, they said that they are willing to change their mind if new research suggests otherwise.

No Smoking Medical Cannabis Allowed

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Patients should be given more choice in how they ingest their medical cannabis in New York.

The methods of medical cannabis ingestion that are allowed are also very limited. Smoking and edibles are not permitted. Only capsules or liquids and oils that can be taken from a vaporizer or inhaler are allowed.

For a patient who wishes to avail of medical marijuana in New York, they must contact a medical practitioner who is registered with the New York Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program. The practitioner must then decide whether medical cannabis is appropriate for the patient’s condition.

The practitioner then gives the patient a certificate. The certificate must state the authorized brand and form of medical marijuana, the administration method, and any limitations on the use of medical marijuana for that patient. If there is a recommended dosage this must also be stated on the cert, too.

Where to Buy Medical Marijuana in New York

Once the patient acquires a certificate, they must register with the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program. This can be done through the department’s online Patient Registration System. Once the registration has been processed, the patient will receive a Registry Identification Card. This card enables the purchasing of medical marijuana products at registered dispensaries.

Dispensaries are located all over the state. See a list of New York MMJ dispensaries here. All dispensaries stock two state-mandated medical cannabis products: one with an equal THC-to-CBD ratio, and one with a low-THC-high-CBD ratio. Each dispensary also stocks a variety of other MMJ products with varying THC to CBD ratios. Prices and opening hours vary amongst dispensaries, and many offer home delivery services. A patient may purchase up to a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products at a time. A patient can buy their medical marijuana products from any dispensary in New York.

Patients with MMJ cards from other states may not use them to purchase medical marijuana in New York.

Unfortunately, home cultivation is not allowed.

A patient can have up to two caregivers. A caregiver must be over 21 and either a parent or guardian of the patient, a person designated by a parent or guardian, or a person approved by the Department of Health upon sufficient evidence that no suitable parent or guardian is available. A caregiver must also be a resident of New York and have a valid state driver’s license or state ID card. A caregiver must register with the Department of Health, and each caregiver may serve no more than five patients.

How to Improve the New York Medical Marijuana Program

So, the New York medical marijuana program is certainly far from perfect. It could be improved in many ways.

The list of qualifying conditions could be expanded to include various psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic anxiety and depression.

Patients could be given more choice in how they ingest their medical cannabis. For example, smokable and edible cannabis products could be introduced.

The option to cultivate organic herb at home would also be a welcome amendment to the current medical marijuana laws.

But even with all this room for improvement, it is still very encouraging to see New York’s fledgling MMJ program up and running. Improvements will surely come in time, but for now, good enough is good enough.

How to Get Your New York MMJ Card: 3 Easy Steps

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.

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There are a few basic steps to follow before you get your New York MMJ card.

But there are a few hoops to jump through before you can access your medicine:

Step One

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.

Step Two

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.

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An NY-issued driver’s license can be used to register for a MMJ card in New York.

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.

Step Three

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.