New York’s nascent medical cannabis program launched more than one month ago, and thus far, not much activity has been seen in the media nor in the brick and mortar shops scattered around the state.
According to a report from WNYC , the state has fewer than 400 doctors currently prescribing medical cannabis, but those same doctors have only recommended the program to about 800 people in the entire state. While the number of program-registered doctors in the Empire State is modest at best, that number isn’t the problem.
The number of patients or lack thereof, however, is a major issue. As many advocates warned, the problem stems from New York’s very stubborn marijuana policy which only allows cannabis to be prescribed to those suffering from a list of 10 very chronic illnesses including cancer, HIV, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
Those narrow condition parameters automatically limit the potential success for state’s medical cannabis program. Even with these strict limitations, however, the number of qualifying patients should still be in the thousands, not the hundreds. Which raises the bigger question: are these five companies actually doing anything, or just buying time until New York loosens up its parameters.
Last year, the state awarded five organizations permits to cultivate and distribute approved medical cannabis programs in New York. Each of the five companies were licensed to open four dispensing locations and one cultivation center. The process was fast-tracked in the second half of 2015 and some of these dispensaries began opening in early January. The number of registered patients doubled in the first week of the program, but then dwindled.
It’s unclear exactly who these dispensaries, one of which is located in the heart of Manhattan, are serving medical cannabis to –if anyone. It seems more likely that these businesses are just mere placeholders for an industry that may or may not matriculate in time.
A plan that serves 400 people out of a population of 8 million people cannot be considered successful. Right now, odds remain high that would-be qualifying patients in New York are finding medicine on the black market.
If or when the list of qualifying conditions may be expanded in New York is unknown, and until the state finds a way to address the program’s issues, New York will remain nothing but a cautionary tale as to how not to roll out a medical marijuana program.