People of New York have been waiting years for New York’s Medical Marijuana Program to be put in place and now that it has… it’s proving to be ineffective.
The Compassionate Care Act, a bill to legalize medical cannabis was introduced to the New York State legislature by Richard Gottfried in 1997. It took until 2014 to pass and setting up the way for New Yorkers to access this promising medicine legally from early 2016.
Since January of 2016, there are only 2039 registered patients in New York out of its population of 20 million people. Why so few?
There is a good and workable reason behind the short number of patients registered, considering New York is a city where,
- 100,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year
- 133,000 and more people have HIV/AIDS
- Thousands more with Multiple Sclerosis and Epilepsy
… all of which are covered in the new Medical Marijuana Program.
The number of medical illnesses covered by the program is limited to 10 only, where in some States that have a Medical Marijuana Program offer more coverage. These restrictions and the lack of resources point out that although Medical Marijuana is legal in New York City, not everyone is given the chance to benefit from it.
Out of the 2039 patients mentioned, only half is estimated to have been purchasing Medical Marijuana. This is due to a lot of factors surrounding the program.
Doctors who issue the licenses for Medical Marijuana Patients have undergone a four-hour training course and have been required to register with the state.
Out of New York’s 79,000 skilled physicians, only 471 have registered successfully and are qualified.
There is no list out there that can point people to these registered physicians, making things a little harder for patients in need of the program. If a person was able to qualify for the program, there are only 20 dispensaries in the city that is in operation, considering New York City is 54,000 square miles. These are patients who are sick and some disabled, that have to drive for miles at a time to access the medicine.
Dispensaries in operation are only permitted by the state to carry only 5 brands of medicine.
In the case that a specific medicine is unavailable in a dispensary, a patient must travel for long periods of time to access another dispensary that could possibly have it available or dispensaries in New York might not even have the brand of medicine the patient needs.
But the biggest challenge that faces the Medical Marijuana Program in New York for the masses maybe affordability. Patients are being charged by registered physicians hundreds of dollars just to get the license for the program. Not only that, they soon discover that the medicine cost around $200 to $2000 a month, an amount which certainly not everyone can afford.
The cost is quite understandable though. Opening a dispensary in New York isn’t exactly cheap.
The application fee is a non-refundable US $10,000 to start with. Then if you get the license, you need to get ready to post a US $2m bond and then you have the annual dispensary fees. I have read in a recent article by Erin Hiatt, in The Hemp Connoisseur that what it costs to open a dispensary in New York (US $5 – 10m) would be enough to open up to 20 dispensaries in California. This certainly does not help the patients in need in the State.
The limitation in the choice of medicine hinder patients a position to compare pricing, and insurance will not cover the cost. It’s been difficult to get a clear sense in prices which vary widely, although New York is charging ten times more for their medicine compared to states with the Medical Cannabis programs like Colorado, Washington and California.
Luckily there is hope for Medical Marijuana Patients in New York City. Recently, Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino passed a bill that would help the situation of the Medical Marijuana Program in New York. The bill would let the State add more medical conditions, expand the market and bring down cost. These would then allow patients to be able to access more dispensaries, more brands for specific illnesses and more producers of Medical Marijuana in the city.
The future for New York’s Medical Marijuana program will hopefully see better access to high quality affordable medical Cannabis for everyone in need.
As an update to the above, in June 2016, the Drug Policy Alliance released an assessment report on New York’s Medical Marijuana Program. The findings highlight many of the problems we listed above, the overall inaccessibility of the program and the un-affordability of the medicine.