Medical marijuana has been legal in the state of New York since 2014. As of mid-December, roughly 133,000 (less than 1 percent) of the Empire State’s residents are certified patients participating in the medical marijuana program created by Compassionate Care Act.  Although the word “conservative” is rarely used to describe New York, the state’s medical-marijuana program is stacked with rules that make it difficult for patients to get the medicine they need. On the other hand, the state prohibits employers from testing applicants before they are hired, one of the most progressive protections for medical marijuana patients in the country.  Here is everything you need to know about how to get a medical marijuana card in New York.  

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How to Qualify for New York’s Medical Marijuana Program

If you have been diagnosed with one of the following medical conditions, you may be eligible to participate in New York’s medical marijuana program:

  • Cancer
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Spinal cord injury with spasticity 
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic pain 
  • As an alternative to opioid use
  • Substance use disorder 

In addition to having one of the previous diagnoses, you must also demonstrate one of the following complications as a result of your diagnosis:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe or chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures 
  • Severe or persistent muscle spasms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Opioid use disorder 

That means that if you have a cancer diagnosis but aren’t exhibiting any of the complications listed above, you might not receive a physician’s certification for the use of medical marijuana. 

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Completing the MMJ Card Application

The first step toward getting a medical marijuana card in New York is obtaining certification from a New York-licensed physician who is registered with the state’s medical marijuana program. The New York Department of Health provides a public list of practitioners who have agreed to certify patients for medical marijuana. The list only includes practitioners who have consented to have their names disclosed.  During the appointment with your physician, your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of using cannabis to treat your condition. Your doctor will also determine the dosage, frequency of consumption, and consumption method most appropriate for treatment.  Once your doctor certifies you, you’ll be able to begin the application online. Before you can access the application, you’ll need to create a account. Once you’ve created that account, you can click on the “Health Applications” link to be directed to the Medical Marijuana Data Management System where you’ll be able to complete your application.  Patients are allowed to designate up to two adults to be their caregivers, individuals who help the patient buy or consume their medical marijuana. Caregivers must also complete an application. As with patients, to complete an application, the designated caregiver must create a account and submit an application through the Medical Marijuana Data Management System.  Technically, the application fee for both patients and caregivers is $50. However, the Department of Health is waiving that fee for the time being.   Once the Department of Health approves your application, you will receive a temporary registration card online. When accompanied with government-issued photo identification, your temporary card will be acceptable for use at dispensaries. You can expect to receive your physical medical marijuana card within seven business days. 

Renewing your Medical Card

Medical marijuana cards in New York are only valid for one year. In order to continue using legal medical marijuana, patients must renew their registration annually. The process for renewing a medical marijuana card is the same one you use to get your initial card. But don’t worry about finding the same doctor you used to get your initial approval. You can see a new doctor to obtain the necessary documentation for renewal.  First, you will need to receive a physician’s certification from a practitioner registered with the state’s medical marijuana program. Once you receive certification, you can renew your card online. As during your initial appointment, your physician will determine the dosage and delivery method for your cannabis medicine.  It’s best to renew your medical marijuana card within the 30 days leading up to its expiration. If you renew your card within that window, you drastically reduce the likelihood that you will need to go a period of time without access to legal medicine. If you delay renewal until your card is expired, you may need to wait several weeks before your application is approved. 

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Where Can I Buy Medical Marijuana in New York?

Falling in the camp of states with some of the strictest medical marijuana rules, New York does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana.  At the same time, New York has a very limited number of regulated establishments serving medical marijuana patients.  A total of 40 licensed dispensaries, the only legal places to purchase cannabis, are open throughout the entire state.  All but four of these establishments offer a delivery service, making it slightly easier for patients who live far away from a dispensary to access their medicine.  These dispensaries will have unique product menus, but they are each required to sell at least one brand with an equal ratio of THC to CBD and a brand with a low-THC-high-CBD ratio. 

Medical Marijuana Possession and Consumption Rules

New York’s medical marijuana consumption rules are surprisingly strict for a state known for its progressive policies. New York’s medical marijuana program prohibits edibles and cannabis smoking. As of now, the following forms of cannabis are allowed for consumption:

  • capsules, tablets, and lozenges 
  • oils for vaporization or oral consumption
  • metered ground plant preparations 

According to the law, the patient’s practitioner must determine the brand, form, and administration method of medicinal cannabis to be used to treat the medical condition.  The law does not require the doctor to prescribe a specific dosage, though they may make a recommendation. However, the physician will define a 30-day supply of medical marijuana, the maximum amount of cannabis a patient can purchase from a dispensary at a time.