Passing medical cannabis laws is only the beginning of the journey for American states. California has the longest standing medical cannabis program, which has been used as a model for the other twenty-seven states to implement some sort of protection to cannabis access.
But some states have seen major issues arise even after granting avenues for patients to legally purchase marijuana. New York, for instance, took an approach to medical marijuana that should be viewed as a perfect example of what not to do.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed New York’s medical marijuana program into law in 2014. However, in an effort to keep cannabis “out of the wrong hands,” Cuomo also limited the legal forms of medical cannabis, as well as the qualifying conditions a patient must be suffering from to be eligible for medical cannabis. These two caveats may have set New York patients back several years in comparison to other medical marijuana states.
Fewer than 14,000 New York residents have received a medical marijuana recommendation. This is likely a result of the limited qualifying conditions, but can also be attributed to the fact that there is no readily available list of New York doctors who are willing to recommend cannabis.
But even those patients who succeed in getting a doctor’s recommendation are still apprehensive to purchase cannabis from one of New York’s five medical cannabis companies. In fact, only 10,250 patients had purchased from a legal New York outlet, and nearly 4,000 of those never returned after their first visit.
Clearly, something is not working in New York.
Business are also extremely concerned that the heavy restrictions are keeping their businesses from being profitable. Each of the five business licenses awarded last year cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure, and even more spending was necessary for these groups to become operational.
Due to the low demand, dispensary prices for cannabis in New York have skyrocketed, and the comfort of legal cannabis has become a financial burden for many who are used to the street prices that don’t break their budgets.
If a state wants to successfully implement medical cannabis laws, it needs to understand the importance of access (not driving hours to get to one of five select retailers), the importance of market pricing (reasonable competition with the black market to attract patients into the state’s structure), and the importance of medical inclusion.
There are hundreds of conditions that have peer-reviewed medical studies supporting the effectiveness of cannabis therapy. So why is New York shooting itself in the foot by wavering from the past successes of other medical cannabis states?