New York is set to expand access to its restrictive medical marijuana program, and marijuana delivery workers in the vein of “High Maintenance”are about to have legal competition — but don’t lose the number of your delivery person quite yet. Bending to complaints that the state’s two-year-old medical marijuana program is too restrictive, officials in New York State are rolling out changes intended to increase access. The New York Times reports that home delivery of medical marijuana products could begin as soon as late September.
New York will also allow nurse practitioners to begin certifying patients to use cannabis, the paper reported, and the state could also expand the number of companies allowed to manufacture and dispense cannabis products from five to 10. The state may also consider expanding the list of ailments that qualify patients to use the drug, but other restrictions — such as a prohibition on flower — are set to remain.
New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, and the first patients started receiving cannabis in early 2016. Almost immediately, the program was plagued by critics who say the rules are far too restrictive. Cannabis cannot be smoked or vaporized, meaning flower is not available. The only allowable forms of cannabis are tinctures, sprays, and topicals. Only five companies are allowed to produce medical cannabis, and there are only 17 dispensaries across the state, which has a population of 20 million people.
Product offerings are limited at each dispensary, and if one dispensary doesn’t have what a patient needs, the next closest one can be as far as a three-hour drive away, the newspaper reported. And access is limited to patients with serious health conditions like AIDS, cancer, and epilepsy — and patients must have one of the following conditions: wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe muscle spasms.
Patients with mental health problems like PTSD are not eligible. This has helped limit participation in New York’s program to “about 5,000 patients,” though June, according to the state health department. According to The Times, there are now about 7,000 patients to whom marijuana products are available.
In the New York City metropolitan area, including suburban Westchester County and Long Island, there are only five approved dispensaries, several of which are not yet open.
There is one in Manhattan and one in Queens, with another in the Bronx slated to open — and that’s it for the nation’s most populous city. So that’s all good news for the bicycle-pedaling marijuana delivery people in Brooklyn. Their jobs — though black market — are still safe.
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