Medical Marijuana Legal In New York — Extreme Restrictions Cause Critics To Question Access To Cannabis

The popularity of both medical and recreational marijuana is rising, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Now, some of the most resistant states in the U.S. are starting to support the medical use of marijuana for at least some ailments. New York has become the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, but they are drawing strong criticism for making the program incredibly restrictive. There is even talk that the rules being enforced as part of New York’s brand new medical marijuana program are actually detrimental to the marijuana legalization movement.

The new medical marijuana dispensary in Rochester, New York, has been described as very hotel-like. It’s understandable that residents of the state find the setup of the new dispensary odd because medical marijuana was never welcomed in New York until just recently.

Time magazine reported on the recent medical marijuana changes in New York. Their rules are a bit different than the other 22 states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana. In New York, smoking the plant is still prohibited. Patients are allowed to enjoy the medical effects of cannabis only in liquid and oil form.

There are only five facilities in New York that have been cleared to provide medical marijuana to patients because the rules for cannabis use in the state are still very strict. Legislation has prohibited more than 20 dispensaries from existing in the state. Medical marijuana will only be available to patients with severe and/or terminal conditions. As Time reported, patients suffering from cancer, HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease will be eligible for medical marijuana use.

While the legalization of any form is a step forward for marijuana advocates, the extreme limitations in medical cannabis laws recently passed in New York have been subject to some pretty harsh criticism. AlterNet reports that the medical marijuana program in New York “rolled out with a whimper.” New York legislation has been criticized for being far too restrictive, with some even going so far as to claim the Empire state ruined legalization momentum when it comes to even more conservative states such as those in the midwest.

New York has been criticized for not having enough marijuana trained doctors. Under the new law, physicians have to complete a four-hour, $250 course before they are allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients. So far, Salon reports that only 266 doctors have completed the course. To make matters worse, that handful of doctors who may prescribe marijuana are limited in where they can get the medication. Currently, there are only eight open dispensaries in the state of New York. Even when maxed out, according to the law, there will only be 20 dispensaries available to serve the needs of the entire state. There are 20 million people in New York, so even with the strict regulation regarding medical marijuana use, there will likely be issues getting meds to the people who need it most.

To make the rules even more restrictive, medical marijuana growers in New York are even more restricted. Each strain of marijuana comes with its own therapeutic benefits, but patients in New York won’t have much choice in the product they receive. The restrictive laws only allow five in-state growers, and even then, each grower is only allowed to grow five strains each.

While some may think that any progress is still progress, New York’s medical marijuana program has many critics. Those working to legalize marijuana both for medical and recreational use see the New York program as possibly being problematic when it comes to legalization in more conservative states. Many places have resisted adopting medical marijuana therapies as part of their legal medical practice. Now, with New York allowing only oil and liquid on top of the incredibly restrictive rules about dispensaries and growers, proponents of legalizing medical marijuana fear that states who haven’t signed on to legalize may use New York’s new restrictions in attempts to legalize medical marijuana elsewhere.

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