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When Will Medical Marijuana Be Fully Legalized in New York?

When Governor Cuomo made an uncharacteristic call for further research into the statewide impact of marijuana legalization back in January, the announcement was seen by many as a sign that New York was finally ready to catch up with the rest of the rest of the country on marijuana legislation. Although New York was one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana back in the 70’s, it has been slow to move past this initial step in the years since.

As nearby states like Vermont, New Jersey, and Massachusetts brought forth medical marijuana laws one by one throughout the decade, it wasn’t until 2014 that the State and Senate Assembly finally gave the go-ahead for New York’s own Compassionate Care Act. While this was definitely a much-needed move for thousands of seriously ill patients across the state, many medical practitioners still claimed that the law was still unnecessarily restrictive; some even claimed that program had been set up to fail.

The bill set out a list of qualifying conditions that would allow prospective patients to obtain a medical marijuana certification. When CCA was first implemented, this list omitted chronic pain and PTSD; two conditions that are generally thought to respond well to medical marijuana treatment.

The medical marijuana itself was distributed through registered organizations (RO) that were responsible for cultivating and selling the product. Initially, only 5 ROs were approved for cannabis production, each of these organizations was allowed a maximum of four dispensaries which equated to 20 dispensaries in total, in a state with a population of over 19 million. Compare this to Florida, where a maximum of 425 dispensaries were allowed in a state of roughly similar size.

The CCA also prohibited dispensaries from selling smokable forms of marijuana, so medical cannabis was only sold in the form of capsules, liquids, or oils. At this stage, certifications could only be granted by a narrowly controlled group of medical professionals, which made it even more difficult for patients to gain access to the treatments they needed.

Across 2017 and 2018, the Department of Health finally began to take some steps towards rectifying these concerns. First, the list of medical practitioners that could provide medical marijuana certifications in New York was expanded to include nurse’s practitioners and physicians’ assistants. Online registrations were also introduced to help build the numbers of certification providers.

Meanwhile, chronic pain and PTSD were finally added to the list of qualifying conditions were medical marijuana. In August of 2017, the list of ROs was expanded to 10, and the types of medical marijuana that could be sold were also widened to include: ointments, patches, tablets, and non-smokable plant materials.

Of course, New York’s medical marijuana laws still have a long way to go especially when you consider the fact that Massachusetts and Vermont have now moved to legalize even recreational forms of the drug, while New Jersey seems to be taking its own tentative steps towards complete legalization. By contrast, there are still 22 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in New York, and talks on legalization are still in their very early stages.

However, the fact is that 62% of NY voters support wholesale marijuana legalization in the state, while a further 88% are in favor of expanding medical marijuana laws. With public perception overwhelmingly in favor of less restrictive laws, it seems that New York’s legislators are finally sitting up and taking notice. Indeed, New York’s Democratic Party has already thrown its weight behind marijuana legislation, while gubernatorial candidates like Cynthia Nixon have promised to make marijuana legislation a key issue in the upcoming elections.

With the much-vaunted legalization study now nearing closure, and promising a positive result. It seems as if all the right factors are in place for fully legalized medical marijuana in New York


At Medical Marijuana Recs NY we’re set up to help qualifying patients gain access to medical marijuana in New York. Our registered practitioners, under the guidance of Lauraine Kanders, NP can perform a comprehensive assessment and set you on the path to gaining your medical marijuana certificate in just one remote appointment and, in most cases, on the same day! Contact us today, to find out more.

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Lauraine Kanders

About Lauraine Kanders

Lauraine Kanders is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner and NYS Medical Marijuana Practitioner with 25 years+ of experience in adult health and acute care. She operates a telemedicine practice to certify patients for medical marijuana in New York State who suffer from approved severe, chronic, debilitating and severe conditions . Her inspiration for this business came about while working with her primary care house call patient population.