It’s not very often that legalizing marijuana in any form is underwhelming, but New York certainly managed to do just that. About a year and a half after legalizing medical marijuana it finally went on sale last week – and compared to almost any other state the sales were extremely depressing.
However, this is mainly due to the restrictive nature of New York’s medical marijuana program. Currently the program only allows CBD oil and vapor products and the list of qualifying conditions is miniscule and are described as “severe debilitating and life threatening conditions”.
The list of qualifying conditions for New York includes: Cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), intractable spasticity from spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, nerve damage and Huntington’s disease.
Health Officials were given the chance to add five more conditions to the list, which would have included Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia and rheumatoid arthritis. Officials unfortunately decided that there was not enough scientific evidence to allow medical marijuana as a treatment option for these conditions.
On top of the extremely limited number of conditions that qualify in New York, there is also a surprisingly limited number of registered physicians who are qualified to recommend cannabis – only 150 in the entire state. When compared to the number of individuals living in the state, only 150 is nowhere near enough.
There is also only 20 dispensaries in the entire state allowed by law – and the dispensaries are all owned by the companies who cultivate and process the cannabis and CBD oil. This alone will make it difficult for patients to obtain their medicine if travel is an issue, which along with the limited list of qualifying conditions likely contributed to the fact that only 51 people in all of New York registered.
“State legislators tend to think that getting high is something to be avoided,” he (Keith Stroup, founder of NORML) said. “And they’re trying to avoid the appearance of someone enjoying themselves when they were meant to be taking their medicine… They don’t want to see it turning into another California, where anyone can get a prescription.”
To many of us it seems that New York is simply afraid to expand their program and start too big – but unfortunately starting too small might end up being their downfall. Since they will not budge on allowing raw cannabis or high THC strains, they are hugely limiting the number of patients they can help even more.
The cost of producing marijuana concentrates like CBD oil is much higher overall than it would be do produce cannabis flower and edibles. It could cost upwards of $1,000 each month for patients to afford their cannabis medication – none of which is covered by insurance.
They’ve also made their dispensaries some of the most unwelcoming buildings, with extreme security measures. It’s just not quite the cannabis culture that many are used to. While I think New York has many of the right intentions, they still have a long way to go if they want to see their medical marijuana program survive in the long haul.