New York’s medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Care Act, launched last month but has is criticized as one of the more poorly run state programs. Albany’s biggest advocate for medial marijuana, Manhattan assemblyman Richard Gottfried, might have a solution for how to amp the program up.
Gottfried proposed a new bill recently that would direct the New York State Department of Health to approve at least five more companies, or registered organizations, to grow and sell medical marijuana. It might not sound like much, but it would effectively double the scope of the current legislation, which only allows five companies to produce and market products.
“In order to speed up the process, it authorizes the [health] department to consider the information that was submitted by various applicants in last year’s licensing process,” Gottfried is quoted as saying.
In 2015 Gottfried introduced a large, comprehensive bill to address the shortcomings of the Compassionate Care Act. The bill would remove the ban on smoking medical marijuana, it would would add five additional medical conditions for patient qualification, and expand the number of companies allowed to grow and sell.
His plan for 2016 is to introduce seven smaller, piecemeal bills that will address individual components of the larger proposal.
“Now that [the Compassionate Care Act] has been to some degree implemented, I think now we can make a clearer case that changes are needed,” says Gottfried.
This would go a long way towards tuning up the Compassionate Care Act, which has only seen 334 physicians and 551 patients register with the state. To be clear, this is far lower than the state initially projected.
For Gottfried, the program’s slow start is due to the state publicly withholding the list of registered doctors who can recommend medical marijuana. The list is only distributed amongst doctors, which makes it doubly hard for patients to get a prescription.
“You can’t sign up as a patient unless you find one of those 300 doctors. I think it’s plainly illegal to keep that list secret,” Gottfried says.
While the rollout of New York’s Compassionate Care Act might not have been perfect, it’s nice to see policymakers like Gottfried working to fix its shortcomings. In the meantime, those seeking medical marijuana in New York could turn to cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil as an alternative.
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