New York became the 23rd State to legalize medical marijuana on July 5, 2014 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a medical marijuana bill into law, but of course with limitations…only in non-smokable form. Who is eligible to use it? Patients, adults and children with serious diseases or conditions like cancer, epilepsy and AIDS. The bill grants heavy authority to the State Health Commissioner to oversee the system and certify doctors who he believes can prescribe the drug. For now, patients will not be able to smoke the herb although vaporizing herb and oil based cannabis extracts would be authorized.

There were, prior to the signing of the bill, naysayers and supporters of the bill such as Sen. William Larkin, Orange County who said he was swayed by the parents of children with epilepsy and defiantly asserted his full support of the plants medicinal use. Several other States like Utah and Florida have approved the cannabis active ingredient, cannabidol, for medical use.

Even though the signing represents huge progress and will provide legal access to medical marijuana to hundreds of chronically ill New Yorkers, Gov. Cuomo did not neglect to voice his precautions regarding the herbal legalization under the ‘Compassionate Care Act’ while at a news conference on Sept. 8, 2014 in New York City. In just a few words he cautioned against having ‘good intentions with bad results.

Medical Marijuana NYWhile companies in New York are preparing to cultivate the grass, certain stipulations have to be met by all parties involved; doctors, patients AND the growers. These are a few Dos & Don’ts as per the NY Medical Marijuana Law (S7923/A6357-E). You will have to read the entire Law outside of this post to get full details:

  • To apply to be a Registered Organization (RO), the organizations must meet a range of criteria, including that they have sufficient facilities and land or a bond of $2 million and can maintain good security. Growing must be done indoors (which may include a greenhouse) in a secure facility. The Commissioner will not license more than 5 RO’s, which can each operate 4 dispensaries (for a total of 20 dispensaries). Licenses are valid for 2 years and then must be renewed
  • Only physicians are allowed to recommend medical marijuana, although the Commissioner has the option of including nurse practitioners based on patient need and access. The recommending physicians must be licensed and practicing in New York, be qualified to treat the serious condition, have completed a 2-4 hour training course, and had been registered with the Department of Health (DOH). The practitioner must be caring for the patients for whom they are making the recommendation.
  • For patients to qualify to be part of the program they must be a resident of NY or are being treated in NY for the condition for which they are seeking medical marijuana, must be certified by a NY physician who has registered with the DOH to recommend medical marijuana, must have a “serious condition,” as defined by the law and must

obtain a Registry Identification Card from the DOH and carry their patient registry card at all times that they are in possession of medical marijuana. A certified patient can only be in possession of all allowable forms (e.g., extracts, tinctures, oils, edibles) of medical marijuana. No patient or caregiver can legally possess more than a 30 day supply as determined by the practitioner and consistent with any DOH regulations.  Patients can get a refill of their medical marijuana and can refill during the last 7 days of their 30 day supply. Their supply of medical marijuana must be kept in its original packaging and cannot be consumed in a public place.

It will be interesting to see how many growers, practitioners and patients can consistently comply with the regulations without being whisked off to a detention center or having their license revoked. It will be as simple as forgetting your ID card at home while waltzing into the mall with your medicine in your pocket. There is a lot more to be put in place to have this industry running like a well-oiled machine. The marijuana legalization will take some time to be recognized on a federal level, but then again, even Rome was not built in a day.


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