Creating an entirely new industry is never going to be an easy task – but New Yorkers made it harder on themselves than it had to be when they implemented their medical marijuana industry at the start of the year.
Their extremely limited program is their first downfall – other states have already proven that it can be tricky to keep a program running long-term when it only serves a few thousand (or in New York’s case around 550) people. The main reason for this being the cost of production for such a limited patient base.
Unfortunately, at the moment New York has less than 400 doctors qualified to recommend cannabis as a treatment option to individuals suffering from a very limited number of conditions. The fact that there are so few doctors leaves them scattered across the state and inaccessible to some.
Another major problem is that the list of qualified doctors is not available to the general public – meaning the patients have to talk to their doctor (and likely many others) just to find a doctor who can legally offer them this alternative.
Pair all that with having only 5 “registered organizations” selling the marijuana oils and the cost of production and the cost to patients, it all spells disaster for a long-standing program.
The good news is there is still hope for New York! The “Father” of New York’s Compassionate Care Act, Richard Gottfried is not pleased with where the program currently stands. Last year he issued a proposed bill that would change multiple aspects of New York’s program for the better – and this year he will be reintroducing each change individually in hopes of more progress.
The first thing up on the agenda is to hopefully be expanding the number of registered organizations in the state. Thankfully, to speed up the process the Department of Health would be able to look through the applications of the 43 companies who were not approved for licenses the first time around.
The bill would add five more organizations that would be allowed to cultivate and sell medicinal marijuana products – a big improvement that is needed to expand.
After that the other mentioned changes would be to allow smokable forms of marijuana – which could potentially drop patient costs by hundreds of dollars. Currently, due to the fact that only oils are legal the cost of production raises the cost of the product – leaving medical marijuana patients paying between $1,200-2,000 each month for medicine alone.
Another mentioned change would be to expand the list of qualifying conditions – which would expand patient base and likely make a large impact on the industry as a whole. The conditions that could be added include Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, dystonia, Crohn’s disease, wasting syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and PTSD.
All in all, New York’s medical marijuana program didn’t get off to the best start – but it can still be saved as long as the state doesn’t stand in the way of necessary improvements. I know there’s thousands more in that state who would benefit if the program were only a little less restrictive and I have hope those patients will see relief sooner rather than later.