New Regulations Improve New York’s Medical Marijuana Program

New York’s medical marijuana program is expanding with four changes announced by the State Department of Health.

In an official statement released by the department, the new regulations will seek to “continue the expansion of the state’s Medical Marijuana Program, while improving its experience for patients, practitioners and registered organizations alike.” Once adopted next month, the four new rules will allow for the sale of additional marijuana products as well as an improved experience for patients and practitioners.

As it stands currently, New York State has one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the country. Medical marijuana offerings are limited to mostly liquids, oils and capsules and only state-certified marijuana patients are allowed to enter the limited number of dispensaries, meaning prospective patients with questions are out of luck. However, the new regulations seek to change many of these issues.

“This is yet another positive step forward for New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program,” said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “These regulations will continue to improve the program in several ways, including making new forms of medical marijuana available and improving the dispensing facility experience.”

The New Regulations

1.New Marijuana Products: Under the new regulations, medical marijuana patients will have access to many more types of products. These new products include things such as lotions, tablets, lozenges, patches and more. There’s also the possibility for non-smokable forms of ground plant material.

2.Improved Dispensary Procedures: Under the new rules, prospective patients and practitioners interested in the medical marijuana program will be able to enter a dispensing facility to “speak directly with an RO representative, learn about products, and get information about the medical marijuana program.” This also includes allowing people other than designated caregivers to accompany a patient into a facility.

3.Shortened Certification Processes: The State will now offer shorter, two-hour online training programs for doctors to become certified to prescribe medical marijuana. This shorter program will be offered alongside the current four-hour training program.

4.Additional Changes: “These changes include broadening the capability of registered organizations to advertise, streamlining the manufacturing requirements for medical marijuana products, amending security requirements, and clarifying laboratory testing methods, among other actions.”

These changes are the State’s latest of several attempts meant to improve New York’s struggling medical marijuana program, which only has 26,561 certified patients and 1,155 registered practitioners. Other steps have included:

  • Licensing five new companies to grow and distribute marijuana—effectively doubling the number of producers in the state.

  • Adding chronic pain to the list of ailments eligible for marijuana treatment and seeking to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list.

“We are grateful to the Department of Health for listening to what patients need and working to expand the program and increase access to medical marijuana,” Kate Bell, Legislative Counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, told NPR News. “Different patients benefit from different types of products and we are glad that the new rules will allow a wider variety of choices. This is a great step toward reducing costs and improving patients’ options.”

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