The New York legislature authorized the legalization of medical marijuana last summer and the state is now moving forward with its plan to legalize medical marijuana. This exciting development is however mixed with a lot of controversy and red tape.
New York State’s Health Department placed a lot restrictions on medical marijuana, which will prevent many potential patients from accessing it. The patients that actually qualify for medical marijuana will also face a number of strange restrictions such as medical marijuana cannot be smoked.
The bill would only allow for 20 medical dispensaries to be run by five organizations established throughout the state. This will make accessibility tough for many potential patients.
What does bill state?
The Health Department released its proposed regulations, which are set forth in more than 100 pages, and it makes the medical marijuana program more complicated than it needs to be. Some of the rules are just ridiculous. Here are a few of the rules:
- No one can other than a patient and their caregiver is allowed in the dispensary.
- Patients are not allowed to drink or eat on dispensary premises unless it is necessary for medical reasons.
- The law prohibits the smoking of medical marijuana. Instead, the drug will be administered as an individual dose of raw or concentrated form.
- Sales are restricted to five strains of medical marijuana
The Health Department’s bill states that only people who suffer from one of ten severe debilitating or life-threatening conditions qualify for medical marijuana. These conditions include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and AIDS. The Health Department defines terminally ill as patients with a life expectancy of one year or less.
Backlash from politicians
New York Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, one of the politicians who has worked to bring medical marijuana to the state, criticized the Health Department’s provisions.
“There are people from very, very young children to very elderly New Yorkers who are going to continue to suffer unnecessarily,” Mr. Gottfried said.
Many medical marijuana supporters have stated that they hope to see the regulations refined before it launches in 2016, but there’s no guarantee, according to Gabriel Sayegh, the managing director for policy and campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization who lobbies for more liberal drug laws.
Sayegh said, “The administration continues to operate as though medical marijuana programs have never been operated before. If we were having this discussion in 1998, one would understand the extreme caution. But it’s not the late 1990s, it’s 2015.”
Health Department defends the bill
New York’s Health Department defended their tight restrictions and supported the bill.
Monica Mahaffey, the director of public affairs at the Health Department said, “The state developed the regulations through this very critical lens to ensure that the entire program would not be subject to enforcement action or legal challenges.”
Still a lot to figure out
If the measure passes, New York would join 23 states in allowing the use of medical marijuana. Barring any setbacks, New York’s medical marijuana law should go into effect by 2016. The state plans to select and announce the five registered organizations that will operate the dispensaries over the next few months.
Advocates estimate the number of people that will qualify under the restrictions to be in the thousands to hundreds of thousands. One of the factors that will affect the success of the program will be the fact that marijuana will not be covered by insurance or Medicaid. This will shut out many low-income patients if it is priced too high.
The bill submitted by the Health Department has received a ton of backlash and we expect to see changes made to the bill over the next few months. These changes will most likely cause setbacks in the commencement of the program. We expect to see the program implemented during the first quarter of 2016.