Add another state to the list that will be legalizing marijuana use for medical reasons. The New York Senate voted 49-10 on June 19th to pass a bill (known as the “Compassionate Care Act”) legalizing access to medical marijuana in NYS. This Bill has been passed by both houses of the Legislature and is supported by Governor Cuomo.
Now that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law later this week, the focus has shifted from getting the bill passed to how it is going to be implemented. Gov. Cuomo has until July 5th to sign the bill, and an 18-month window will begin as soon as the bill is signed to begin creating regulations for the program, award contracts to grow the marijuana and decide what conditions should be included in the list of people who will have access to the drug.
Although other states are legalizing marijuana for medical use, the program that will be implemented in New York is going to look a little different than those in other states. For example, New York is going to place restrictions against smokable forms of marijuana. They are also going to limit the amount of dispensaries that will be allowed to grow and sell the drug. Initially, there are going to be five organizations that will be allowed to dispense the drug at four different locations each. This means that there will be no more than 20 dispensaries across the state of New York, and the locations are going to be regulated so that they will be evenly distributed throughout the state.
Some people remain apprehensive that this amount of locations is going to be able to appropriately serve the amount of people who are eligible for the drug. The Department of Health is going to maintain authority over what diseases and conditions are going to be eligible for the NYS medical marijuana. Right now, the list includes:
- HIV or AIDS
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal-Cord Injuries
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
There are also five other conditions that are currently up in the air to receive status as diseases that would be eligible for NYS medical marijuana: Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. The health commissioner will have until the end of the 18-month window to determine which, if any, of these five will become eligible.
It is important to note that some still remain cautious about the potential of this program. While The Medical Society of New York State applauded the efforts to pass the bill, they also want everyone to know that there is still some risk to this movement. They warn that there is still potential for addiction to marijuana, which means that the program will need to be monitored closely to ensure that the proper procedures are being followed.
The “Compassionate Care Act” Will:
- Establish a certification and registry process for physicians to administer medical marijuana;
- Put in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense, medical marijuana;
- Specify that the serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s Disease;
- Establish a Class-E felony for a practitioner that certifies an individual as eligible to facilitate the possession of medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person who is asking for it has no need for the medication;
- Establish a misdemeanor offense for recipients of medical marijuana that sell or trade the medication; and
- Create a 7% excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver.
We applaud the bill’s sponsors, Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and the patients, family members and other advocates who worked so hard to secure its passage.
If you, or anyone you know, thinks that they are potentially eligible for medical marijuana, please visit www.marijuanaproducts.com to find a list of dispensaries as they open for business.