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

What The New York Legal Cannabis Bill Means For MMJ Cardholders

Recent legislation has passed to make cannabis legal in another US state. The latest news on legalization in NY is that residents of the Big Apple are no longer prohibited from using recreational marijuana. Wondering what the New York legal cannabis bill means for MMJ cardholders? Read all about it below.

What is the new legal cannabis bill in New York?

On March 31, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes adult-use cannabis in New York state. This legislation also created a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) that will be governed by a Cannabis Control Board (made up of five members) that will help oversee and implement this new legislation.

The New York legalization 2021 bill details that a one-of-a-kind regulatory board will be implemented to oversee the licensing, cultivating, producing, distributing, selling, and taxing of cannabis in the state. The MRTA covers medical marijuana (MMJ), recreational use by adults, and cannabinoid hemp.

legal medical marijuana on white surface
Image by Ndispensable on Unsplash: A new bill has passed that will legalize recreational marijuana in New York state.

What does the new legalization bill mean for recreational users?

The bill states that, starting immediately, possession and use of up to three ounces of cannabis by anyone 21 and over is completely legal in the state of New York. The delivery of recreational marijuana is now also legal and, in the near future, some businesses can open lounges (also known as consumption sites) where cannabis can be used legally. It also means that individuals can cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home (indoors or outdoors) for their own personal use.

While these elements can take place right away, there’s still most likely going to be a long wait for other aspects of the MRTA to occur. For example, officials will now need to draft the rules that will control the market, including how to allow the growth and retail markets to work and how to set up licensing. There will also likely be regulations set up for the creation of new taxes surrounding recreational marijuana. The revenue in taxes will most likely be millions of dollars; legislators have noted that this revenue in sales could be reinvested back into minority communities. Another positive change could be the end of racially disproportionate policing that has negatively impacted Black and Hispanic communities on low-level marijuana charges in the past.

When will dispensaries open in New York?

Some dispensaries are already open for medical marijuana patients, but it could take up to a year for the state to open recreational cannabis vendors. Once all of the regulations and selling avenues have been established, experts estimate there could be as many as 1,000 retail outlets across the state of New York where individuals can buy legal cannabis. The MRTA also states that home delivery could be implemented once regulations are in place. This means that marijuana will be much easier to access for both recreational and medicinal use.

MMJRecs - medical marijuana in hand
Image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash: MMJ cardholders will have better access to the products they need as the bill is being implemented.

How will the bill affect MMJ cardholders?

If you’ve read the NY legalization news, you might be wondering how the MRTA will impact MMJ users. At this time, there are several approved medical marijuana options (including capsules, tablets, metered liquid, oil tinctures, vaping, and topical and transdermal patches). This new law will allow smoking marijuana to be legalized, as well as other forms of cannabis. Edibles will also be among the options that are now legalized. This means that MMJ cardholders could have better access to the products they need to help treat their symptoms.

However, because it’s going to take at least a year to implement all of these changes, it may still be beneficial for people to use medical marijuana versus recreational usage. If individuals have a qualifying condition (which can range from anything from glaucoma to anxiety), they can talk to their doctor about getting an MMJ card in New York. There are still benefits cardholders can get that the general public won’t have yet. Legal home cultivation and growth of marijuana plants, for example, could take up to 18 months before recreational users are allowed to take part – but it would be a much shorter wait for MMJ users. MMJ cardholders also have the advantage of having access to dispensaries that aren’t open to the general public yet.

There will likely be a ton of changes occurring regarding the usage of both medical and recreational marijuana over the next year. MMJ cardholders should research how to buy and use their MMJ products so that they’re always in good standing with the law. For recreational users, there are still regulations to follow (especially on growing cannabis for personal use). Keep up with the components of the MRTA to stay on the right side of the law, and apply for an MMJ card if you have a medical condition that qualifies.

Featured image by Colton Duke on Unsplash

What Is The Legal Amount Of MMJ You Can Carry In New York?

Medical marijuana in New York has been legal since legislation for the Compassionate Care Act was passed in June of 2014. This has given residents of the state access to the relief that MMJ can provide for a plethora of different conditions. There are many illnesses that qualify for medical marijuana, and anyone with the proper documentation and medical marijuana card can use it to help them cope.

However, there are certain limitations that New York MMJ users face. These laws are put in place to keep the use of medical marijuana for treating chronic illness safe and effective. It’s important to know these rules – for example: what is the legal amount of MMJ you can carry in New York?

MMJ In New York

New York State implemented the New York State Medical Marijuana Program to help patients gain access to this treatment option while following all the rules and regulations surrounding possession and use of cannabis intended for medical use. In NY, medical marijuana can be bought and ingested with a proper medical card and appropriate diagnosis.

Medicaid, or other health insurances, do not cover the use of medical marijuana for any chronic illness, and thus, those looking to supplement their treatment with cannabis will have to pay out of pocket. However, the processes that patients go through such as evaluation and certification are covered by New York State Medicaid.

MMJRecs - pills
Image by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash: Medical marijuana in New York State is approved in a few forms, including pills and capsules.

New York Drug Laws

The drug laws in New York State are virtually the same as they had been prior to the legalization of medical marijuana. Patients are limited in where they can get their marijuana, because only 20 or less dispensaries are able to operate across the state. The particular facilities that are allowed to sell medical marijuana must only sell cannabis in non-smokable form.

The growth, possession, use, or selling of recreational marijuana in any amount is still illegal in the state of New York and penalties are still in place that range in severity from a fine to jail time, depending on the charge. The good news is that a law is in place that allows people previously charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana to have their criminal records expunged in relation to that charge.  

How Much Medical Marijuana Can You Carry In New York?

For a person with a New York MMJ card, the amount of MMJ they can have at any given time isn’t entirely clear. This is because the state allows card holders to buy “a 30-day supply” of medical marijuana at a time. Since medical practitioners are in charge of prescribing dosing, this numbers may vary from patient to patient depending on their own personal needs.

There is a New York State Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) that compiles data from all patients so that doctors can review each patient’s history thoroughly and make a treatment plan and amount on a case-by-case basis. All medical marijuana purchases are also added to the PMP database. To purchase and carry medical marijuana in the state of New York, a person must have also been certified with a New York State registry identification card. No out-of-state cards are accepted.

Is Flower Legal In NY?

Smoking of cannabis is illegal in the state of New York, whether it is medical or recreational. However, the laws do not clearly state that cannabis in the dried flower form is illegal to possess by a person with a certified medical marijuana card. All forms of medical cannabis need to first be approved by the commissioner, including the dried flower form.

Since the New York State Department of Health has also urged medical marijuana users to avoid vape products because of their possible link to pulmonary illnesses, the use of dried flowers is typically difficult without being able to smoke or vape.

MMJRecs - marijuana products
Image by Kimzy Nanney on Unsplash: MMJ flower may not technically be illegal in New York State, but its main ingestion methods are.

Are Edibles Legal In New York State?

Edibles are currently prohibited in the state; however, the law allows for food and beverage manufacturers to create edibles using only cannabidiol (CBD) without the THC component. The forms of medical marijuana that patients have legal access to ingest include capsules, liquids, sprays, oils, and vaporizers. 

The legalization of medical marijuana in New York State has given many individuals with chronic illnesses a chance for new treatment options. Each patient is different, which is why the law provides a loose definition of how much a person can carry at one time – a 30-day supply – so that each patient can get their allotted amount to help with their specific condition.

Featured image by Tania Fernandez on Unsplash

Why New York Is The New Medical Marijuana State

New York State’s legal medical marijuana program became operational in January 2017. The program has caused a lot of controversy, both in the lead-up to its commencement, and since. And the controversy rages still.

The problem that a lot of people have with New York MMJ laws is that, despite the state’s tradition of inclusiveness, open-mindedness, and liberalism, the medical cannabis program that its scientists, legislators, and politicians devised and put into operation is pretty much one of the most restrictive and limited in all of North America. People who were excitedly anticipating New York becoming a weed-friendly state along the lines of Washington, Colorado, and California, with funky Manhattan dispensaries educating people and selling the latest boutique strains and tasty organic edibles, are now sorely disappointed.

Getting a New York medical marijuana card from your friendly old neighborhood doc and using it to pick up some Lemon OG Kush in your cozy corner dispensary to treat your insomnia, anxiety, glaucoma, or backache is absolutely not an option in New York.

Only ‘severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions’ qualify a person to get a New York medical marijuana card under the state’s ‘wet behind the ears’ medical herb laws. Originally, only having one of a horror show of diseases and conditions, combined with some truly gruesome symptoms, qualified people for a New York medical cannabis card. Cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, and Huntington’s disease were initially the only conditions that made someone eligible, and on top of this, the patient’s condition had to include a symptom of cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or persistent muscle spasms, severe or chronic pain, nausea, or seizures. Thankfully the state amended the law in March to include chronic pain as another qualifying condition. This more vague condition has made it easier for patients to qualify for the program. So it’s not as draconian as it was at the beginning, but it’s still considerably more limited than most other states with regards to what conditions qualify a person to get a New York medical cannabis card.

New York MMJ laws are particularly restrictive at this stage.

Alongside the severely limiting list of qualifying conditions, there are also several other issues that restrict the effectiveness of New York State’s MMJ program. There are only a meager twenty dispensaries allowed to operate in the state (a mere one for the entire island of Manhattan!); smoking and edibles are banned and only oils and tinctures are allowed; a paltry variety of MMJ products are available to choose from; the prices are higher than in other states; and home cultivation is strictly prohibited. Medical cannabis advocates and patients and many physicians in the state are feeling deflated and hard done by.

But is this situation going to change? Is this awkward, cumbersome, red tape-wrapped MMJ program the best that New Yorkers can hope for? And importantly, will New York State’s restrictive and, some might say, half-hearted adoption of a medical marijuana program serve as a template to follow for other states that have yet to legalize medical marijuana, but are likely to do so in the future?

Murmurs coming from the Department of Health are giving a glimmer of hope. Scientists responsible for designating a medical condition weed card-worthy are at pains to point out the fact that they are always careful to stay up-to-date with the latest research, and that no designation is written in stone. As soon as ample evidence presents itself that a condition can be helped by medical marijuana use, they say they will amend their decision and recommend that it be included on the list of qualifying conditions. They put their money where their mouth is in March when they decided that chronic pain should become a qualifying condition. They are also putting their weight behind moves to include PTSD and menstrual cramps on the list, and it looks like these conditions will become the newest ailments to be included on the list very soon.

With regards to number of dispensaries, available products, methods of ingestion, and home cultivation, things look like they will move more slowly, but with large states such as California going all-in, legalizing marijuana outright, and seeing huge economic benefits, it seems likely that New York State will move, albeit slowly, in the direction of less restrictive cannabis laws.

Will New York follow in California’s footsteps?

With regards to the question of other, more conservative states using the restrictive model of New York MMJ laws as a template for their own programs, this seems quite likely. New York is a highly influential state. The draft bill that Pennsylvania is currently working on is highly restrictive, and many southern and midwestern states are keen to introduce severely limited MMJ laws (if they introduce them at all).

This is an unfortunate state of affairs, as it gives states an excuse to introduce restrictive, unhelpful laws of their own, and thus may turn out to cause undue pain and hassle to patients in many different areas of the country.

Let’s hope that the slow movements New York State is making towards improving their program pick up pace, because as the newest and most high-profile medical marijuana state, they wield a lot of influence. The country is watching closely. What will New York, the new medical marijuana state, do next?

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.

What California MMJ Patients Think of New York’s New Medical Cannabis Legislation

Twenty nine states across the U.S. have now legalized medical marijuana, although the strictures of each respective legislation differ wildly. Although MMJ has been legal in at least one state in America since 1996, it still remains a contentious topic among local governments – a contention which becomes apparent with even a cursory glance at the various bills and acts which inform the legality of the medicine across the country. In fact, you don’t even have to look at all the bills; you can look at just two, a comparison which comprises the opposite coasts of the country.

California have always been way ahead of the curve when it comes to medical marijuana. They were the first state to introduce MMJ, way back in 1996, and their loose, liberal approach has informed the way many states approach the controversial subject. It took a further two years for any other state to get MMJ legislature through their respective senates.

Though it wasn’t the first state to introduce recreational marijuana (that was Colorado and Washington simultaneously in 2012), Cali has long been seen as a marijuana advocate stronghold, and followed through with their recreational legalization in November 2016, concurrent with the U.S. presidential election.

Californians Have a Leg Up When It Comes to MMJ

MMJ Recs - New York City

One benefit Californians have over New Yorkers when it comes to medical cannabis: patients aren’t required to get a state ID card or an MMJ card.

MMJ patients in California have it pretty good. Their 1996 bill, Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, still holds up in 2017, despite some vague wording at the time of its issue. There are a whole host of qualifying conditions, not just serious ones, and the list includes the all-important qualifier ‘chronic pain’, which covers many different forms of debilitation, without needing the doctors to diagnose a specific illness before prescribing.

In fact, the law goes one step further, and qualifies any debilitating illness where the use of MMJ has been “deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician”. This gives doctors a lot of free rein to prescribe to their patients, without worrying if their treatment plan is in danger of breaking state law.

There are also no possession limits specified by Prop. 215, and home cultivation of the medicine is permitted. However, patients could find themselves in hot water if they grew amounts of marijuana that were obviously excessive to their needs; to clear up this situation, the government added an amendment to the original bill in 2016, which declared that a patient may cultivate up to 100 square feet of marijuana, while primary caregivers with five or fewer patients can cultivate up to 500 square feet.

Most importantly, patients in California are not required to get a state ID card or a MMJ card. They’re both optional, but residents of the state can avail of medical marijuana freely without either of them.

Medical Cannabis Laws in New York

All that freedom stands in stark contrast to New York’s take on the matter of MMJ. Californian patients would think that NY’s legislation was extremely conservative; and they’d be right. The usually-liberal leaning New York shocked MMJ advocates up and down the country in 2014, when it introduced one of the most restrictive medical marijuana bills in the U.S. Initially, it was seen as an extremely conservative step, but a necessary one, given that New York governor Andrew Cuomo has been vocally anti-marijuana (in any form) in the past. Looking at the legislature, it reads almost opposite to California’s bill of eighteen years previous, although of course, they are broadly the same piece of law.

MMJ Recs - Beverly Hills

New York’s medical marijuana legislation is pretty much the exact opposite of California’s 1996 MMJ bill.

Initially, New York had a small list of severe diseases under its qualifying conditions. These included cancer, AIDS, ALS, MS and Parkinson’s, although crucially did not include the all important ‘chronic pain’ clause that California’s law has. Since last year, after pressure from MMJ advocates, this has since been rectified, and ‘chronic pain’ is now a fully fledged, MMJ-legal condition in New York.

A second part of the bill that shocked Californians, and has yet to be rectified, is the prohibition on smoking the medicine. Smoking has long been known as the most potent and effect method to consume marijuana; when it comes to medical cases, it’s important that patients give the medicine the best chance it can to work. Unfortunately, under Governor Cuomo, smoking MMJ was considered too much of a risk, and not included in the bill.

Other restricting factors include absolutely no cultivation permitted, and a limit on how many dispensaries can operate in the state at a time (only twenty). This again is in stark contrast to the West Coast, where patients could be sure of picking up their medicine locally and easily.

Looking to New York, patients in California would be shocked to learn that there is only one dispensary for every 27,000 square kilometers of the state. This makes access hard, and also crucially makes it more troublesome for critically ill patients to get the treatment they need.

Although things are changing in New York, they’re still a long way off the liberal leanings of California’s law. Observing the happenings on the East Coast, MMJ patients in Cali are no doubt thanking their lucky stars that they live where they do; conversely, NY patients have got a fight on their hands to bring their legislature up to California’s gold standard.

Is New York Going to Overtake California as the Leading MMJ State?

As legal medical marijuana becomes more and more widespread in the United States, the particular ways each state is handling the introduction of the medicine are slowly becoming apparent. There are currently 29 legal MMJ states in the country, across the country from California to New York, and all of them approach the subject a little differently to the last.

While advocates continue to fight the good fight to get the medicine legalized in all 50 states, it’s going to be a long road; so it can be instructive to take a look at how the respective programs of the legalized states have shaped up so far.

California: A Trailblazer for Medical Cannabis

The trailblazer state for MMJ is undoubtedly California, who legalized the drug over twenty years ago in 1996. Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Care Act, passed by a narrow 55%, and allowed people suffering from cancer, AIDS, arthritis and other chronic ailments the avail of medical marijuana.

Although the proposition was criticized at the time for its vague wording, it was hailed as a major breakthrough by the medical profession, who could now legally recommend MMJ to their patients. From then, California has gone from strength to strength, and has become the guiding beacon for the legalization of both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

California has long been seen as a leading liberal state, as has its counterpart on the opposite coast, New York. America’s largest city has a long history of liberal leanings, and most expected them to carry through with the advent of MMJ. However, that was surprisingly not the case.

New York vs. California MMJ Laws

Quite the opposite occurred actually; when New York finally legalized medical marijuana in 2014, a full eighteen years after California, it was in the form of a shockingly restrictive and conservative bill. One of the sticking points of the new legislation came from Governor Andrew Cuomo, a long-standing anti-marijuana advocate, who insisted that the medicine should not be legalized in smokable form.

MMJRecs - Golden Gate

California allows medical marijuana to be taken in any form, which is vastly different to the MMJ laws in New York.

This greatly limits the potency of MMJ, which is most effective and fast-acting when smoked. In addition, only a small number of diseases, many of them severe, would qualify a patient for MMJ treatment in New York; the 2014 bill didn’t include the blanker term ‘chronic pain’, which critically limits both who doctors can prescribe to, and on what grounds.

In fact, New York doctors themselves had to think very carefully before prescribing the drug. If they were found to be working outside the tight parameters of Cuomo’s bill, they could find themselves breaking federal law.

As it stood upon introduction, New York’s MMJ laws stood in stark contrast to California’s liberal leanings. California allows medical marijuana to be taken in any form, and also includes a wide range of qualifying conditions, which sharply outguns New York’s restrictive measures.

Medical Marijuana Laws: Times They are a Changin’

Things have been changing recently though, and advocates in New York have been applying pressure in order to loosen the conservative bill. These changes, however, bring it nowhere near California’s MMJ legacy; and the problem starts with supply and demand.

It’s hard to walk down any given street in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or indeed any major Californian city, without happening across an MMJ dispensary. Over twenty years of legal medical marijuana have given California an unprecedented head start in terms of cultivation, and the industry continues to go from strength to strength.

Over on the East coast however, things are a little different. Currently, New York’s 2014 bill only allows for five cultivation companies to legally operate in the state, with a maximum of twenty dispensaries (or one every 2,700km). This was initially crippling to the growth of MMJ; though the Department of Health has since recognized its limitations, and doubled the amount of cultivation companies to ten, in a bill passed late last year.

MMJRecs - New York Skyline

One good piece of news is that as of March this year, chronic pain was added as a qualifying ailment for MMJ in New York.

There are also continuing and persistent calls for changing the qualifying conditions in New York, some of which have not gone unheeded. As of March this year, chronic pain was added as a qualifying ailment, after it was announced in December 2016. This opens up a whole new world for medical marijuana in New York, making it accessible for many more people for whom it could prove a major benefit. Despite the early aggressiveness of the 2014 bill, signs are good that the Department of Health are loosening their reins and are looking to put New York on the MMJ map.

However, these new measures simply don’t measure up to California’s lax legislation. In fact, the Sunshine State has gone one step further and legalized recreational marijuana, another bold step in the slowly but surely progressing acceptance of the drug. Although it’s making bold strides, and is certainly heading in there right direction, New York still has a long way to go to make up the ground gained by California.

Until NY, the supposed liberal bastion of the Eastern seaboard, severely loosens its laws, Cali will remain the king of MMJ states. But who knows what the lay of the land will look like five years from now. Until then, patients will on both sides of the country will have to continue fighting the good fight, and advocating the plethora of benefits MMJ provides.