In 2014, New York joined the increasing number of states to legalize medical cannabis use. Though marked as a significant date in the advancement of marijuana legislation, the program was not a smashing success to begin with.
Initially, the program lacked some aspects that other states had accepted. One of the more glaring restrictions centered on qualifying conditions that omitted PTSD and other commonly included symptoms. During the first few years of the program, numerous opinion pieces posited if the state’s program was doomed to fail.
In 2017, the state began making a series of enhancements to improve patient access and physician enrollment. In addition to allowing PTSD, the state added other common conditions, including chronic pain, to its qualifying conditions list. Since then, New York has gone further by becoming one of the first states to allow medical cannabis IDs for any patient prescribed an opioid treatment. The once restrictive program is now a thriving market that continues to expand access to New Yorkers. As of November 27, 2018, the program reported 82,119 certified patients and 2,049 registered physicians, physician’s assistant and nurse practitioners.
For New Yorkers, obtaining their medical cannabis license is a rather simple process that should be affordable to most. Applicants must first prove their New York residency using their driver’s license, government issued ID, utility bill, lease or other applicable documentation. By allowing for the latter options, those from out of state receiving treatment for a condition in New York have a smoother path to qualifying as well.
From there, patients can receive a recommendation from a physician if they suffer from any of the following:
- Positive status for HIV or AIDS
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Huntington’s disease
- Any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed
In New York, applicants can choose to see a physician through an in-person visit or via an online telemedicine appointment. Patients seeing a physician already enrolled in the program have the advantage of skipping a few hurdles in the process. With a history of treatment already established, a registered physician will have all the information needed to determine if a recommendation is suitable. If an applicant prefers an in-person assessment but does not have a certified physician already, they can find one nearby with the state providing additional information on how to locate one.
While not available in every state program, New York joins California, Nevada, Massachusetts and a handful of others that allows for online physician visits. Telemedicine is an efficient method for those unable to see a physician or those with little time to spare. Recently, I chose one of the many telemed options available to New Yorkers to qualify for my medical cannabis card. After inputting my patient and credit card information, I was able to book a short, ten-minute appointment with a registered professional. The process me cost around $140.
Before setting up an appointment, have your medical records available. This information was required before I could book an appointment. Depending on the physician, obtaining records can take a few days or several weeks. In my case, I was setback almost four weeks – making it the longest part of the application process by far.
After I was able to submit my records and set up an appointment, the process moved smoothly. After paying for my appointment, which can vary depending on the service, I was able to book a 10-minute evening appointment just a few days later. From the comfort of my apartment in Brooklyn, I was connected through an online portal with a physician in Buffalo.
While some may think a ten-minute assessment leaves the process as credible as some of California’s sketchier doctors giving out prescriptions back in the day, that is not the case. With an understanding of my medical history, my physician delved into my past treatments, pain levels and experience with cannabis in short order. Aside from the doctor not physically being in the room, it felt like any other in-office assessment.
Once it was established that my chronic pain was suitable for a recommendation, the doctor laid out a treatment plan based on my needs and assumed tolerance levels. They explained what to consider when visiting a dispensary and other products and THC levels I could opt for. This gave me the understanding to start with a moderate strength vaporized product while leaving the door open for other consumption methods if ever needed. Overall, I never felt rushed by the doctor and was welcomed to reach out anytime in the year as part of my membership benefits.
I was told to keep an eye out for further email instructions. In just a few minutes after my appointment ended, I received my digital recommendation, certification number and instructions for registering with the state as a final step. In some cases, it may take up to 48 hours to receive this information.
Once given the digital recommendation, applicants must create a My NY Gov account to access the Medical Marijuana Data Management System. From there, they must start a new registration, which should take about ten minutes to complete. Currently, the $50 application fee is being waived, though that could change at some point. From there, a confirmation should appear and the physical card should arrive in the mail within five to ten business days. Patients can use their temporary digital license if they need to visit a dispensary while waiting on their card.
Once received, patients can visit any of the registered organization locations in the state. With the program expanding, the list of approved dispensaries is growing as well. While some patients continue to face limited access to medical cannabis, this should change soon enough. Boroughs like Brooklyn and counties like Chemung are finally receiving dispensaries in the coming period.
New York State’s medical marijuana program made considerable strides in a few short years. As further enhancements are considered, this reporter can say that its application process is about as efficient and cost-effective as one can hope for. If you think you qualify for a medical marijuana card, visit the New York State Medical Marijuana Program for more information.