N.Y. regulators expand access to medical marijuana program

Young marijuana plants grow at the Vireo Health International production facility in Fulton County in this November 2020 file image.
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Young marijuana plants grow at the Vireo Health International production facility in Fulton County in this November 2020 file image.

ALBANY — Marijuana will be easier to prescribe and use for medical purposes in New York under recently finalized regulatory changes.

The state Office of Cannabis Management said the new certification and registration system officially announced Monday eliminates the list of qualifying conditions — a patient can now be certified for medical marijuana use for any condition that the health care practitioner believes would benefit from such therapy.

The change is the latest in a series of changes underway as the state continues its transition toward legal, regulated marijuana production and sale.

Oversight of the medical marijuana program previously was transferred from the state Department of Health to the Office of Cannabis Management.

The OCM already has allowed the sale of whole flower for medical purposes, rather than just extracts. Also last year, it expanded the list of medical professionals able to certify patients to any practitioner licensed to prescribe controlled substances; permanently waived the $50 registration fee for patient and caregiver; and increased from 30 to 60 days the supply that can be dispensed.

The medical marijuana program got off to a slow start in New York after it was authorized in 2014 and drew criticism as being heavily regulated, expensive, cumbersome and limited in product selection. 

Patient ranks have increased as successive efforts were made over the following years to make it more user- and patient-friendly, but at the start of 2022 there are still only 150,000 registered patients and 3,500 registered providers in a state of 20 million people.

“We will continue to … ensure that all New Yorkers who can benefit from medical cannabis have the access they need to do so,” OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander said in a news release. “It’s important for New Yorkers to know that even as we shift the medical program to the OCM, your access will not be disrupted and the program will continue to expand.”

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