New York medical marijuana legalization has the unfavorable distinction of being the least celebrated win in the history of U.S. cannabis reform. Eight dispensaries opened their doors on a lackluster January 7th
, free from the revelry that marked legalization in states like Colorado and Oregon. But for such minimal fanfare, a lot of hard work went into the New York medical marijuana law, officially referred to as the Compassionate Care Act. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo made the law official back in 2014 with lobbyists pushing the bill for years leading up to the momentous but not-as-momentous-as-you’d-imagine occasion. So why are cannabis legalization enthusiasts less-than-thrilled a year and a half later when the Compassionate Care Act has finally hit the ground?
New York Medical Marijuana is for Medical Purposes…Seriously
Yes, New York medical marijuana reform did
hit the ground but it didn’t exactly hit it running and it definitely wasn’t the hero the people wanted. New York’s end to marijuana prohibition stands undisputed as the strictest take on cannabis legalization the country’s witnessed to date. The Compassionate Care Act was meant to make marijuana available to patients for medicinal purposes only. But unlike preceding states who have legalized medical marijuana, New York medical marijuana comes with a series of regulations designed to make sure no one’s having any fun with it.
Despite this legalization, New York residents are still prohibited from smoking their medicine. Patients can purchase low-THC syrups, oils, and concentrates to be administered exclusively by inhaler or vaporizer or they can buy cannabis in capsule form. Patients are banned from growing their own marijuana plants. While many have seen these restrictions as uptight, the Compassionate Care Act’s stringent means of ensuring that marijuana remains medical in New York has garnered accolades from researchers who feel these guidelines create a pure means of testing the effectiveness of medical marijuana.
Only 10 Illnesses Qualify a Patient for Medical Marijuana
The Compassionate Care Act also assured that becoming a medical marijuana patient wasn’t as easy as dropping some cash in a doctor’s office with a green cross illuminated in the window. In fact, as of Wednesday evening, New York’s Department of Health admitted that only 51 patients had met the inflexible criteria to be considered a candidate for marijuana prescription. In order to be considered a potential medical marijuana patient, an applicant must suffer from at least 1 of 10 afflictions including HIV or AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). New York medical marijuana law shows no signs of budging on these prerequisite illnesses, a factor that has many cannabis hopefuls distraught.
Lacking in All Aspects Except Legal Restrictions
One reason that so few patients have been certified for marijuana treatment stems from the very recent December 23rd start date for authorization. However, very few doctors can write such authorization due to another strict feature of the Compassionate Care Act. New York medical marijuana authorization can only be written by a doctor who has completed the state’s 4-hour online training course. While this may not seem so excruciating, the doctors seem to disagree. Only 150 physicians have completed the test thus far. Those desperately in need of medical cannabis have been quick to point out that no such training is required for a doctor to prescribe opiates which have been proven to have life-threatening effects as opposed to marijuana which has killed a total of 0 patients.
But New York’s medical marijuana initiative isn’t just lacking doctors. The state has approved a mere 5 companies to open dispensaries. While each company is allowed to open up to 4 dispensaries each, the idea of 20 dispensaries serving the entire state of New York has many patients fearing medicine shortages. Likewise, New York medical marijuana allows for a minimal amount of strains to be grown by these companies, throwing variety out the window.
While only 8 dispensaries are open for business today the remaining 12 are set to follow by the end of January. But grand opening celebrations are doubtful, as are soaring profits with a mere 51 patients authorized to enter these dispensaries. The general sentiment indicates that New York medical marijuana legalization shows a step in the right direction, albeit a very small step.