New York is one of the approximately two dozen states that have revamped their laws regarding marijuana possession, consumption and sale. Although the Federal Government still has marijuana on the list of Schedule 1 Drugs that are considered illegal, it has by default given the states the ability to make cannabis legal for medical purposes. While some have taken this liberty one step further and made recreational use legal as well, New York has not changed those laws at this time although the review is currently pending.
New York weed laws
After a lengthy review of the efficacy of medical marijuana, lawmakers tackled the controversial method with the Compassionate Care Act. This bill, signed into law in 2014 by Governor Cuomo, was designed to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of medical marijuana. Under the law, the Department of Health was tasked to certify providers and dispensers as well as ensuring specific requirements were met.
At the time the bill was drafted, certain diseases and chronic conditions were determined to benefit the most from cannabis treatment. Although the list was considered incomplete by many physicians and patients, thousands benefited from its passage.
The New York Department of Health is continuously studying other conditions and their response to marijuana treatment to expand the list. Patients that suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses that are not currently on the approved list should consult with their physician and the Department of Health to ensure they have the most up to date list.
At present, the qualifying conditions that are covered include the following:
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Neuropathy (or other forms of nervous tissue/spinal cord damage)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
- Chronic Pain
- Opioid Use Disorder (only if enrolled in a certified treatment program)
Additionally, a patient can qualify if they have one of the following associated or complicating conditions:
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
- Severe or chronic pain
Additionally, as of July 2018, medical marijuana was approved for use as a pain-relieving opioid substitute in the hopes that it would help curb the horrific impact of the opioid epidemic.
As in many other states, medical marijuana dispensaries must abide by specific regulations. In New York, patients can only purchase a thirty-day supply of their medication. The law strictly prohibits patients from smoking cannabis although access to the dried flowers that are typically used to prepare joints or smoked in bongs was not banned. There are only four forms of medical use that have been approved in the state; oral (sublingual) oil drops, capsules, topicals, and vaporization. Cultivating or growing marijuana for personal use is forbidden regardless if you possess a valid medical marijuana card.
While the State of New York understands and sympathizes with the needs of patients, consumption of medical marijuana through vaporization in public places is strictly prohibited. Additionally, individuals who have been prescribed cannabis should understand that driving under the influence laws will extend to them as well. Operation of any vehicle or large machinery while under the influence of marijuana can result in punishment similar to DUIs involving alcohol if a patient is found violating those laws. At this time reciprocity to out-of-state cardholders is not recognized. Violators will be subject to both the federal and state laws regarding unlawful marijuana possession or use.
How to get a weed card in New York?
To be eligible to use medical marijuana, patients must be a legal resident of New York, over the age of 18, and have one of the diseases or conditions on the approved list. If the patient is under 18, a parent or legal guardian can complete the application as a designated caregiver. A medical professional such as a physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner who is licensed to practice in New York and is registered with the NY Department of Health can assist patients who meet the requirements. The patient must be examined either in person or by way of telehealth technology before certifying documentation is provided.
Once the medical professional has provided the necessary documentation, patients must register online with the Medical Marijuana Program. In addition to providing the required information, patients wishing to exercise their right to obtain a medical marijuana card must pay a non-refundable application fee of $50.00. If all the requirements are met and the authorizing authority has granted permission, a medical marijuana card will be sent to the address provided online. Typically, patients will receive their cards within seven to ten business days. Recertification and payment of the application fee are required annually to ensure there is no lapse in legal coverage.
Once patients have received their medical marijuana card, they are eligible to purchase products from a dispensary in New York. The medical professional must include specific information on the prescription including the brand and form of marijuana to be used, the consumption method, and any other limitations the prescriber deems necessary.
Patients who have additional questions or concerns can either follow up with their provider or review the policies online with the New York Department of Health at Department of Health.
When the Compassionate Care Act was first passed, the law provided for only five organizations that could each operate four dispensaries throughout the state. Since that time, the Commissioner has increased the number of approved companies. Each is licensed for two years at a time and subject to reporting requirements with the Department as well as specific record-keeping policies. Failure to adhere to the applicable state laws will result in termination of the business’s registration by the Commissioner.
The authorizing branch of the Department of Health in New York has taken measures to ensure that each registered organization can produce its own brand of medical marijuana products once prior approval has been met. Brands must include at least one that has low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and high cannabidiol (CBD) content as well as options that with approximately equal amounts of THC and CBD.
Pricing of products for medical marijuana use must be approved by the Commissioner. While registered organizations may decrease the price for qualified patients, they cannot increase pricing unless the Commissioner has consented. Individuals are encouraged to contact the organizations directly to discuss any reduction programs offered.