Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Despite the fact that both medical cannabis and recreational (adult-use) have now been legalized in New York, finding a marijuana doctor can be difficult. Some practitioners are not comfortable conducting the health evaluation that recommends a patient for a NY medical card.
However, many practitioners understand the wellness potential of cannabis. And some feel that it is a better alternative for symptoms like chronic pain than prescription opioid medications. As of July 6, 2021, there were 3,274 registered practitioners assisting patients with medical card applications. And in New York State, there were 151,644 patients with a medical card at the time of writing.
Here’s what you need to know about getting your New York medical card and the new laws that will impact patients who use medicinal cannabis for symptom management.
On April 30, 2021, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a 128-page bill (S.854-A/A.1248-A) that regulated adult-use to the NY Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board. That made the recreational use of cannabis immediately legal, making New York the 15th state in the country to permit adult use.
But before residents of NY can buy adult-use cannabis legally, it has to be available. And because that will require issuing licenses to cultivators and manufacturers, as well as new dispensaries, it may be one or two years before you can buy recreational cannabis in New York.
Regulators have been planning for adult-use cannabis in New York for a long time. If you would like to learn more about the positive benefits of legalizing cannabis in NY state, check out “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State (2018)”.
New York is one of six states that have banned or are planning to ban Delta-8 THC. This is a synthetic THC isomer that is extracted from hemp. Delta-8 THC has become a popular product because it may have many of the wellness benefits of marijuana without the psychoactive properties. State regulators have decided to keep the ban on smokables, including hemp pre-rolls or any “flower product labeled or advertised for smoking.” However, New York also updated hemp regulations. The state will allow the sale of hemp flowers as long as the packaging is not labeled as intended for smoking.
Patients in New York diagnosed with one of the following severe, debilitating, or life-threatening medical conditions are afforded legal protection under New York’s medical marijuana law, as per Assembly Bill 6357:
Patients also suffering from a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition or any of the following conditions where it is clinically associated with a complication of a condition under this paragraph or its treatment:
It is essential to know that patients who have a debilitating health condition or symptoms listed on the qualifying list still have options. With your primary care provider (PCP) or referring physician, you can petition for a higher potency level if needed. This is generally approved for individuals who are in end-of-life or compassionate care.
A caregiver must assist minors under the age of eighteen (18) years. A caregiver is designated by a patient that is certified in the Medical Marijuana Data Management System. Once the patient is certified, the caregiver can log in and navigate to the “Health Applications” icon on the MyNy.gov website.
Caregivers must have an NY.gov account. There are step-by-step instructions under the ‘HELP’ link to assist guardians with the registration process. Caregivers must pay a $50 application fee. When the application for the caregiver has been approved, a temporary registry identification card will be provided.
Caregivers must use this card and present government-issued photo identification to purchase cannabis on behalf of the patient. Caregivers may not transport medical cannabis products for the patient, across state borders or outside New York.
If the address of the caregiver changes, they must notify the Medical Marijuana Program right away. Also, if the patient no longer has the symptoms or disorders that qualified them for medical marijuana, it must be reported within ten (10) business days.
Every major category of medical cannabis products is available for patients in New York. While some people have a preferred method of ingesting, it’s essential to consider that different types of cannabis can provide relief. And some (like topical creams) can be used together
The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) currently allows patients with a medical card in New York to buy:
While traditional edible cannabis products can take up to ninety (90) minutes to provide psychoactive and body-high effects, powders are absorbed much faster. They are water-soluble and can be added to any beverage or food. The onset of the THC in a powder and soluble form is much faster, averaging about twenty (20) minutes.
The tax structure law for adult-use cannabis sales will not be in place until April 1, 2022. So residents of New York will be waiting until at least May or June of 2022 to purchase retail cannabis from a dispensary.
When adult-use cannabis is made available for sale, other product categories may become available such as edibles and smokable cannabis. New York is one of the very few states that will allow adults 21 years or older to smoke in public. However, the same rules that apply to tobacco use will apply to smokable cannabis. It will be prohibited near schools, government buildings, and areas that are posted as smoke-free zones.
Residents of New York, including registered patients with a medical card, will be allowed to grow their cannabis at home. Anyone over twenty-one (21) will be permitted to grow up to three mature plants and three immature (seedlings). There will be a maximum of twelve (12) plants permitted per household, regardless of how many people live in the residence.
However, New Yorkers will not be allowed to grow cannabis until eighteen (18) months after the first legal adult-use sale is made. Although patients with a medical card will be allowed to start growing six months after the new law takes effect.
Currently, New York does not recognize the right of patients with medical cards from other states to purchase or possess cannabis. However, many states will accept a patient with a NY medical card. If you are traveling, you can use your medical marijuana card in Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington D.C.
Patients can purchase medical cannabis at a state-licensed dispensary. Now that adult-use is legalized in New York, there will also be recreational dispensaries opening across the state. And patients can choose to purchase their cannabis at any location.
What is good about visiting a medical dispensary? The staff and budtenders are trained to provide suggestions based on your wellness goals. Budtenders have a great deal of knowledge about different strains, hybrids, and types of cannabis, including strains that can help with inflammation with CBG and CBN. Patients frequently find that they get more personalized attention at medical dispensaries.
There is a problem with unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. And this problem is not isolated only to New York. The legal protections you have with your medical card only apply if you buy cannabis from a licensed retailer. If you purchase it from an unlicensed store (or an independent seller), it is illegal.
If you are a resident with one or more diagnosed qualifying health conditions, you can apply for a NY medical card. You will need to provide proof or a copy of your medical file (for 1-2 years) so that the referring physician can confirm your qualifying health conditions.
If you are under eighteen (18) years, you will need to register and designate a caregiver. The caregiver must be an individual who is a legal guardian and over the age of twenty-one (21) years. In New York, a caregiver may also be a registered patient with an MMJ card.
If you are between the ages of 18-20, you will not be permitted to purchase cannabis for adult-use, when it becomes available in 2022. However, you can apply to get your NY medical card right away.
See the steps to getting a medical card if you are 18-20 and a resident of New York in this infographic, “Getting a Medical Card When You Turn 18”.
Did you know that you can see a doctor online to get your medical card health evaluation? Some physicians charge as little as $39 for a telemedicine review and referral. And you don’t have to visit a doctor’s office to get your New York medical card application started.
Here is what you need to do to get a medical card in New York:
Medical marijuana was first legalized in New York, when S7923, the NY Compassionate Care Act passed as law. Legalization included authorizing the possession, manufacturing, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana.
Learn more about the history of the legalization of cannabis in New York below.
If your name or address changes and you have a medical card, you must notify the Medical Marijuana Program within ten (10) days. If your NY medical card was lost or stolen, the good news is that it is easy to get a replacement card.
Each request for a new card is individually reviewed for accuracy, and to identify the patient correctly. If there is no problem, you will be able to download a temporary marijuana card from your account and print it. You can use your temporary card to purchase cannabis at a medical dispensary.
The countdown to the legal availability of adult-use cannabis has started. In the interim, regulators in New York have a big job ahead of them. They must license cultivators, processors, and new dispensaries. And cannabis for adult-use sales must also be safety inspected and tested, and the taxation structure must be established.
What will be interesting about the taxation of adult-use (recreational) cannabis in New York is that potency excise tax will be determined. The stronger the cannabis product is, the more tax you can expect to pay on it.
From getting the attention of the infamous cannabis prohibitionist Harry Anslinger to the legalization of recreational cannabis, here is a brief history of the path to marijuana legalization in New York.
1914— The first written mention of marijuana in New York, was in the 1850s, when it was called “East-Indian hemp” and suggested as an antidote to rabies. The use of medical cannabis was allowed in New York until 1914 when the state adopted the Boylan Bill, which started restricted use. By 1927 marijuana was considered illegal for any use in New York.
Source Web 2021: NyTimes.com
1939— Then New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia created a committee to understand the use of cannabis in NYC. At the time, Harry Anslinger, the commissioner of the DEA (known back then as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics), was actively campaigning against cannabis. The LaGuardia Committee debunked Anslingers claims that cannabis was a “gateway drug”. And the FBN wasn’t happy about the five-year scientific study.
Source Web 2021: Law.du.edu
1973— New York City was battling against a heroin epidemic, and the homicide rate in the city was more than four times higher than it is today. Gov. Nelsen A. Rockefeller saw drug use as a social problem but didn’t view drug users as criminals. The program was launched in January 1973.
Rockefeller launched a zero-tolerance campaign modeled after Japan’s “war on drugs”. The harsh penalties for possessing even small amounts of any controlled substance were fifteen (15) years to life. Other states and the federal government modeled the new laws in New York. And it had a reverberating effect. The American prison population catastrophically rose from 330,000 in 1973 to 2.3 million nationwide.
While cannabis was very popular with caucasian youths (including ‘hippies’), a racial disparity was evident, with more persons of color (POCs) arrested than any other ethnicity. Including caucasian Americans. By 1976, the “Rockefeller Drug Law” was responsible for 2,208 life sentence drug convictions in New York.
Source Web 2021: NPR.org
2002-2013— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ‘flip flopped’ on his stance about cannabis and medical marijuana several times. In his first unsuccessful bid for Governorship in 2002, he claimed that he had no issues with cannabis. And that he had smoked weed in his youth.
But one week before his election as Governor in 2010, Cuomo announced that he was against legalization. By 2011 he had commissioned a study into medical cannabis. In 2012 and 2013, Gov. Cuomo again stated his opposition to cannabis legalization in New York. The Governors “Stop and Snare” program encouraging police search at will, is nationally and internationally criticized for arrest bias, favoring the arrest of persons of color (POCs)
Source Web 2021: Politico.com
2014—New York legalizes medical marijuana. Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the Compassionate Care Act. New York became the twenty-third state to legalize medical marijuana. The legislation allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana in any non-smokable form to patients with chronic health conditions and prequalifying symptoms. Senator Diane Savino was the sponsor of the bill. At a news conference in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, which allows doctors to prescribe marijuana in a non-smokable form to patients with serious ailments recognized by the state on a predefined but flexible list of conditions.
Source Web 2021: NCSL.org
2018— The New York State Department of Health issues a report about the use of recreational or adult-use cannabis. The DOH determines that the benefits outweigh the potential negative impacts of legalizing marijuana for all adults over the age of twenty-one (21).
Source Web 2021: Health.NY.gov
2019— Decriminalization of cannabis legislation goes through in New York. Possession of two ounces or less of marijuana in New York can now result in a citation and not a criminal charge. An average $50 fine is levied for possession and use for one ounce or less of cannabis. Greater than two ounces possessed can result in a fine of $200.
Source Web 2021: NYSenate.gov
2021— Adult-use or recreational cannabis is legalized in the state of New York. Residents will need to be twenty-one (21) years of age or older to purchase and possess cannabis. Smoking cannabis in public will be permitted, except in designated non-smoking zones, such as schools and government buildings. Recreational sale of cannabis products is expected to start after April 2022. Having a medical card in New York means patients will pay less tax on cannabis products.
Source Web 2021: Governor.NY.gov
The State of New York has a legalized medical marijuana program, which allows patients to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a certified physician, and apply for a state-issued New York Medical Marijuana Card, permitting the patient to purchase marijuana for medicinal use, as per New York state guidelines.
Since the New York medical marijuana program is still changing their laws and new New York medical marijuana laws are being enacted on a regular basis, please be sure to visit our site frequently to get the most updated laws as it pertains to the New York medical marijuana program. We have compiled the following New York medical marijuana index of information to serve as a medical library to our users for legal reference of New York’s laws, guidelines and program details regarding medical cannabis use in New York.
Please note: In order to become a legal medical marijuana patient you must first have a qualifying condition as outlined by the department of health services and/or department of justice. For a comprehensive list of New York’s qualifying medical marijuana conditions, please visit our Qualifying Conditions section located on the top of our menu under Legal States.