A bill to legalize medical weed was passed in 2014 and signed into law the next year. But only a handful of conditions are included on the list of those approved for medical weed. The program is so restrictive, in fact, that as of 2016, only 71 patients in the entire state had registered. Only oils and tinctures are permitted by law.
In September 2017, the state of New York proposed an expansion of its medical marijuana program to make it easier for patients with qualifying conditions to get the treatment they need. The new legislature gives patients access to more types of cannabis products such as lotions, lozenges, patches, tablets, and more. The legislature also gives patients the right to speak directly to an RO representative in dispensaries about cannabis products. This legislation was passed and went into effect in December 2017.
Previously, the state of New York had one of the most limiting medical marijuana programs in the US. Now with new legislature passing and information for patients increasing, the state of New York is making it easier for patients with qualifying conditions to register and receive medicinal cannabis.
Medical Marijuana Facts for New York
- The State of New York is one of thirteen states that penalizes first-offense possession of a modest amount of marijuana with a fine instead of possible jail time. First offense of marijuana possession of up to twenty-five grams is punishable by a $100 civil citation. First offense possession of between twenty-five grams and two ounces carries a $500 fine and up to three months in jail.
- New York State law enforcement has been able to exploit a loophole in the decriminalization law by getting an arrestee to expose his or her marijuana as “open to public view”, which converts the conduct into an arrest-worthy offense. This has resulted in the second highest per capita marijuana arrest rate in the entire nation. Nearly 93,000 people a year have been arrested in the state for a marijuana-related offense.
- New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo made worldwide headlines when he called for the closing of this much-abused marijuana loophole. After finding that the NYPD spent nearly one-million man hours on pointless marijuana-related arrests, it raised much alarm in the state of New York that reform was necessary.
- In a recent legislative session, Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried have introduced twin medical marijuana measures that would allow qualified patients to possess and purchase marijuana for medicinal purposes. These two measures are S4406 and A6357. Under these measures, patients would be able to designate caregivers to assist them and could purchase marijuana from a registered organization.
- The state legislature was considering whether or not to add more conditions to the qualifying list during its 2017 session. These included muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rheumatoid arthritis and more.
- A group of doctors known as the New York Physicians for Compassionate Care sent a letter to the legislature stating that numerous scientific studies have shown that not only is smoking weed safe in general, but it can also be beneficial in many instances. They also wrote that extracts and tinctures can often be very high in THC — possibly too potent for many patients who are used to smoking pot.
- There are only 20 dispensaries in the state allowed by law. This equates to one dispensary for every 2,700 square miles. Only 14 dispensaries had opened as of February, 2017. In September 2017, legislation was introduced to expand the number of dispensaries in the state of New York.
- Care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes can register as caregivers in the state of New York, allowing them to dispense patients’ medical marijuana.
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