New York State Medical Marijuana Program Faces Low Enrollment and Limited Availability

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, the New York State Department of Health updated its website to announce that 334 physicians have registered to certify patients for the New York State Medical Marijuana Program, with 551 patients having been certified as well.

The NYS Medical Marijuana Program was launched on Jan. 7; however, according to Crain’s New York, only eight of the state’s 20 dispensaries were able to open on the launch date.

“It’s not going to happen very effectively in New York … . We will have to find out what the availability of dispensaries really will be,” said Marc Ross, a partner in Sichenzia Ross Friedman Ference LLP, in a previous statement to MJINews.

In an attempt to head off the issue of dispensary availability, New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried introduced A9151 on Jan. 29, legislation that would require the Department of Health to register up to five more organizations to provide medical marijuana in the state.

In the justification section of A9151, Gottfried wrote,

The Department of Health has authorized only five registered organizations, with four dispensaries each, to provide medical marijuana. As a result, 20 medical marijuana dispensaries are available to serve the needs of 19,750,000 New Yorkers. Those 20 dispensaries are located in only 13 counties, meaning that 49 counties-with a cumulative population of over 7.5 million people-have none.

“Twenty dispensaries for a state of almost 20 million people and 54,000 square miles is simply insufficient and creates significant barriers to patient access. This bill, which would double the number or dispensaries, is a step in the right direction,” said Julie Netherland, New York deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance, to Capital New York.

If the New York State Medical Marijuana Program licenses additional organizations, the increase in medical marijuana providers would likely improve the geographical distribution of medical marijuana providers in the state, positioning the program for an increase in the number of registered physicians and certified patients.

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