22 other states have already legalized medical marijuana and now New York joins that list. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed a bill to establish a medical marijuana program. The new law includes provisions to ensure medical marijuana is reserved only for patients with serious conditions and is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety.
“This new law takes an important step toward bringing relief to patients living with extraordinary pain and illness,” Governor Cuomo said. “The legislation I am signing today strikes the right balance between our desire to give those suffering from serious diseases access to treatment, and our obligation to guard against threats to public health and safety. I applaud the lawmakers and advocates whose efforts over the past years were crucial in making medical marijuana a reality in New York State.”
Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey D. Klein said, "Today we take the historic step of offering a new level of patient care to the citizens of New York State. Under one of the safest, most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country we will bring much needed relief and effective treatment to thousands of desperate patients suffering across this state each day. This is a common sense, patient-centric program that will continue to stay on the cutting-edge of care to ensure the best possible treatment for New Yorkers in need for years to come."
Medical Marijuana Reserved for Patients with Serious Conditions:
To ensure medical marijuana is available only to patients with serious conditions who can most benefit from the treatment, the law establishes a certification and registry process for physicians to administer the drug.
To be prescribed medical marijuana, a patient must receive a certification from a licensed practitioner who must register with the Department of Health and be qualified to treat the serious condition for which the patient is seeking treatment. The serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s Disease, or as added by the DOH commissioner.
To ensure medical marijuana is in the hands of only individuals in need and their health care provider, Registry Identification Cards will be issued by DOH to certified patients. The card will contain any recommendation or limitation on form or dosage imposed by the practitioner as well as other information. The Department will be able to suspend or revoke the card of a patient who willfully violates any provision of the new law.
Health insurers will not be required to provide coverage for medical marijuana.
Administering Medical Marijuana Safely:
Any form of medical marijuana not approved by the Department of Health is prohibited, and under no circumstances will smoking be allowed. DOH will issue guidelines regulating the allowed dosage amounts, and patients will not be allowed to possess an amount of medical marijuana in excess of a 30 day supply. Additionally, the patient will be required to keep the medical marijuana in the original packaging in which it was dispensed.
The law puts in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense medical marijuana. Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana must be registered with DOH and conform to a specific list of requirements. Registration will be valid for two years at a time, renewable, and subject to revocation. Registered organizations will be required to comply with strict security and record keeping requirements. The law allows for five registered organizations that can each operate up to four dispensaries statewide. Registration identifications and registrations for organizations will be issued no later than 18 months after the effective date of the bill, unless DOH or the Superintendent of State Police certifies that the new program could not be implemented in accordance with public health and safety interests.
Registered organizations will be able to dispense medical marijuana to individuals who present a registry identification card. The organization will not be able to dispense an amount greater than a thirty day supply to a patient. The medical marijuana will be dispensed in a sealed and properly labeled package with a safety insert included. All manufacturing and dispensing of medical marijuana by registered organizations will take place in New York and registered organizations will contract with an independent laboratory to test the medical marijuana.
Tough Penalties for Individuals and Physicians Who Abuse Medical Marijuana Program
The law makes it a Class E felony for a practitioner to certify an individual as eligible to facilitate the possession of medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person who is asking for it has no need for it. The law also makes it a misdemeanor for recipients of medical marijuana to sell or trade the medical marijuana, or retain beyond what is needed for treatment the marijuana for their own use or the use of others.
Distribution of Tax Revenue from Medical Marijuana
The law puts in place a 7 percent excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver. Proceeds from the excise tax will be allocated as follows: 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was manufactured; 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was dispensed; 5% to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to be used for additional drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services; and 5% to the Division of Criminal Justice Services to support law enforcement measures related to this law.
The law grants DOH the authority to issue any necessary regulations to implement the state's medical marijuana program, as well as set a price. The Governor will also be allowed to suspend or terminate any provisions of the program based on the recommendations of the Commissioner or Superintendent.
This bill takes effect immediately and sunset in seven years.