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Matt Wade

Under the New York State Assembly’s budget proposal, the state’s medical marijuana program would be expanded, according to an Albany Business Review report.

If enacted, the program could see more registered organizations, more doctors and a doubling of the number of dispensaries an organization is allowed, from four to eight. 

New York’s medical marijuana program is off to a “slower start” than advocates anticipated, which has, according to Assemblyman Richard Gottfreid (D), impaired access options for registered patients.

“As predicted, the law that we enacted and the regulations implemented were made so restrictive by the executive branch that the program is barely off the ground and many patients in need are not being served,” Gottfried said.

Since the program’s January launch, 482 physicians have completed the course allowing them to recommend cannabis, while 1,934 patients have been certified to use the drug as a treatment option, according to March 18 numbers from the state Health Department.

While increasing the number of dispensaries is imperative for the program’s success, and patient access, Vireo Health CEO Ari Hoffnung says allowing more operators isn’t what is needed to combat the slow start.  

“We don’t believe that the most effective way to improve patient access would be increasing the number of registered organizations,” he said in the report. “The way to do that, in our mind, is to make it easier for patients to find doctors and allow for delivery to patients.”

Gottfried and other program supporters are pushing for additions to the list of approved conditions. Under the law, those changes can only be approved by the Health Department.

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