Recent data provided by the New York State Medical Marijuana Program show that the state’s number of registered medicinal cannabis patients is up about 1750% since January.
New York’s medical marijuana program has struggled to gain traction since it began operation in December 2015, but recent data provided by the state shows the number of registered patients is finally beginning to grow. As of October 3, there are 8,421 New York patients that have been certified for medical marijuana by their doctors, up from just 481 registered patients at the beginning of the year.
While the sizable bump in registered patients is encouraging, a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance estimates that between 200,000 and 500,000 New York residents could qualify for medical marijuana, considering they suffer from one or more of the state’s list of 10 approved conditions.
“What is clear is that [the current number of registered] patients represent a fraction of New Yorkers with serious illnesses who could benefit from medical marijuana,” the Drug Policy Alliance report reads.
The program’s extremely slow rollout has been attributed to unaffordability, an absence of doctors that have been approved to recommend cannabis, and a lack of dispensaries. Before issuing certifications for patients to receive medical marijuana, licensed doctors must be registered with the New York State Department of Health, be qualified to treat one or more of the approved conditions, and complete a four-hour course. The state’s first dispensaries opened in January, and as of today, there are just 20 distributed throughout the state.
Matt Karnes of the New York cannabis consultancy GreenWave Advisors told Marijuana Business Daily that the recent growth is related to more doctors that have gone through the steps to be authorized to recommend medical cannabis and greater patient awareness. However, he did say that the growth this year is “pretty dismal relative to the potential market size.”
In an effort to address the program’s issues, the New York State Health Department recently shared a list of 12 recommended changes in its recently published Medical Use of Marijuana Under the Compassionate Care Act Two-Year Report. Among the suggested changes was to permit home delivery, increase the number of approved dispensaries and allow nurse practitioners, as well as doctors, to certify patients for the medical marijuana program.
Approving more producers and dispensaries could increase competition and therefore help address high costs, which the New York Times has reported range from $200 to $1,000 a month.
“That’s a lot of money for an MS patient because many are unemployed,” Dr. Michelle Fabian, assistant professor of neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the New York Times.
New York’s medical marijuana program, made legal following the passing of the Compassionate Care Act in 2014, includes cancer, HIV and AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s disease on its list of qualified conditions. Patients are limited to five specific strains of cannabis-based oils and prohibited from consuming whole plant marijuana or anything smokable or edible. Home cultivation for personal medical use is also prohibited.