Medical marijuana has come a long way since the passage of the first Compassionate Care Act in the late ‘90s. While many concerned citizens, physicians, and politicians have debated any potential use for medical purposes, those who were suffering felt that their needs were not being considered. Thankfully, after the first state took the historical step to legalize it, almost two dozen more have followed in their footsteps.
In 2016, New York passed a version of that bill to join those pro-cannabis jurisdictions. While no state has exactly the same qualifications, many have portions that are similar and may cover some of the same issues. New York may be considered one of the strictest states to get a medical marijuana card, but they are fast becoming one of the friendliest states in the union for its use.
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How does medical marijuana differ from recreational use?
Although half of the states have chosen to go outside the recommendation of the federal government and legalize medical marijuana, only eight states have legalized recreational use as of the date of this publication. New York is currently debating a recreational use bill, but at this time, it has not passed. Despite this, legislators have taken the step to decriminalize marijuana possession.
The idea was that too many people were being arrested and serving unnecessary jail times when a fine for first-time offenders should be mandated instead. Individuals who are trafficking in marijuana are not included in the decriminalization bill.
Many people may not understand the differences between medical and recreational use, but it is quite simple. While recreational use is done solely for the purpose of getting “high,” medical marijuana is used to treat specific life-threatening or debilitating conditions. Each state has a list of qualifying conditions; in New York, the list is considered to be very conservative because it is not as inclusive as that of other states.
It is important to note, however, that since its passage, New York legislators and concerned healthcare practitioners are continually reviewing their qualifications to ensure that if another condition can be helped by cannabis and they find it appropriate, they can make an addition at a later date. An excellent example of this was the addition of conditions associated with opioid use. The current list of qualifying conditions are as follows:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injury with spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability
- Alternative to opioid use
- Substance use disorder
- The severe debilitating or life-threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
- Opioid use disorder
Individuals who are living with ailments that are not covered under this order are encouraged to discuss their options with a licensed provider as well as reviewing this list periodically to see if additions have been made.
Each of the states that have passed similar medical use bills was also tasked with approving the method of consumption. Again, New York took a conservative approach and prohibited two popular methods, smoking and edibles, due to their concerns with safety. At this time, individuals may only consume medical marijuana orally as a tablet, capsule, or lozenge as well as topically, or with a transdermal patch. Oddly enough, legislators decided that despite their reservations with smoking, vaporization should be allowed.
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How can I legally purchase medical marijuana?
Individuals who meet the medical qualifications for cannabis use should seek the advice of a licensed practitioner. In New York, patients are required to have a medical use card to purchase, possess, or consume cannabis legally.
To get the required card, the licensed provider will review a patient’s medical records validating the qualifying condition. To aid patients and make this process smoother, many practitioners utilize telemedicine that allows them to see patients from the comfort of their homes. This virtual visit does require that patients have their primary care doctor send the medical records and any supporting documentation to the medical marijuana provider.
Once the records have been reviewed and the practitioner has completed a consult either in person or virtually, they will make a recommendation and submit all required information into the state’s website dedicated to the medical marijuana program. A temporary card will be issued to the patient, but a permanent one will be mailed to the patient’s address. This medical marijuana card is required to purchase any products from one of the state’s licensed dispensaries. Additionally, patients should always carry their cards with them so that if they are stopped by law enforcement for some reason, they have proof that they are following the law.
Patients under the age of 18 are not allowed to use medical marijuana without a parent or guardians permission. Additionally, they must have a designated caregiver who will act on their behalf at the provider’s office and dispensary. Both the caregiver and the patient will be issued an ID card.
Because medical needs change, medical marijuana use cards expire each year, making it necessary to complete a recertification process approximately two months before the expiration date of the current card.
New York Marijuana Legalization
New York hasn’t yet legalized recreational marijuana, making it at the very least a ticketable offensive if someone is caught with cannabis for personal use. Individuals who need cannabis for a medical condition should not have any issue with applying for a medical use card. This card will help them to purchase marijuana at a dispensary and transport their medications without getting them into trouble with law enforcement.
Although few states have reciprocity when it comes to medical marijuana, some do. Patients who are traveling are encouraged to call the jurisdiction they are visiting. If they do have reciprocity, they are required to have their New York state-issued ID card with them.
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Individuals who are living with one or more of these disorders need to have access to one of the most beneficial and safest treatments possible. Making sure that they comply with all the laws will only help them and others like them in the future. If you are considering medical marijuana as treatment, take the time to fill out an application here, get your ID card, and always have it handy.