New York State Roundup: Medical Marijuana Restrictions

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Ron Strider

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While New York continues to pretend that it is succeeding with its approach to providing medical marijuana to those who need it, a slow, costly and bureaucratic exercise even given the state's tendency to make most projects more complex than they need to be, evidence is readily available that we are on not just the wrong track but one that heads toward a messy and costly derailment.

The news last week from Albany was that the state has now licensed five new companies to join the five current ones to grow and sell medical marijuana products.

The five existing suppliers resisted the expansion because they have not been very successful and feared that more competition in such a restrictive environment would make it difficult to survive. One executive said that given the lack of participating physicians and patients, any single supplier could handle present demand, making an expansion from five to 10 even more puzzling.

All of this is happening while many other states continue to offer less restrictive approaches on marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use and some of them are right next door. In a few months marijuana sales will be legal in Massachusetts, where personal possession is already legal. Vermont is working on legislation to allow people to grow their own and several other states are expanding access.

Most states which consider medicinal uses learned a lesson that still has not taken hold in New York. For marijuana to help those who need it, patients need to work with their doctors free of unnecessary bureaucratic interference and doctors need to determine what would help. We see evidence of that unmet need in New York where more than 10,000 patients recently signed up now that the state has allowed doctors to write prescriptions for those with chronic pain, a condition that inexplicably was not included in the original list of allowed maladies. A bill expanding the list to include post-traumatic stress disorder has passed the Legislature but has not yet been signed by the governor.

At this rate, New York will continue to add a few illnesses here and there, will slowly add physicians to the list of those registered to write prescriptions and will hope that the competition among 10 suppliers does not bankrupt more than a few of them.

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