Marijuana was partially decriminalized in the state of New York as early as 1977. Possession of 25 grams, or 0.88 ounces, or less only resulted in an infraction with up to a $100 fine, but it wasn’t until July 2014 that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as part of New York’s Compassionate Care Act, signed Senate Bill S7923, which legalized “possession, manufacture, use, delivery, transport or administration of medical marihuana by a designated caregiver for a certified medical use.”
Gov. Cuomo modified the bill to exclude smokable cannabis as a legal method of consumption. The bill also awarded licenses to five private cannabis growers, with the option for each grower to operate four dispensaries.
Recreational use, sales, and possession remain illegal in the state of New York. However, in his 2018 annual budget address, Gov. Cuomo urged the state Legislature to fund a study of the possible effects of legalizing recreational marijuana. As of June 2018, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has completed the study, but has yet to release it to the public.
The DOH’s Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) regulates medical cannabis registry, certification, purchase, and dispensing for patients and caregivers. The MMP also manages the certification and registry, and regulation of practitioners and dispensing facilities.
Patients and Caregivers
Patients younger than 18 may use medical cannabis with the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Adult patients may declare up to two caregivers who can pick up and transport medical cannabis on the patient’s behalf.
Where is it Safe to Purchase?
Certified patients can purchase medical cannabis from registered and state-regulated dispensaries. To ensure safe delivery methods for patients, the DOH only allows medical marijuana in smoke-free forms, including capsules, liquids, oils, and vaporization. Edibles are also prohibited under current law. The five registered organizations under the MMP operate dispensaries across the state.
There is a seven percent (7%) excise tax on medical cannabis in New York.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
It is illegal to vaporize approved medical cannabis products in any public or commercial space where public health law prohibits smoking. It is also illegal to vaporize a medical marijuana product within one hundred feet (100 ft.), or 30.48 meters, of the entrances, exits, or outdoor areas of any public or private school, unless within private property. Consuming medical cannabis is illegal in all motor vehicles located on both public and private roads, or in any parking lot.
Possession & Cultivation Limits
Registered patients may hold up to a 30-day supply of an approved medical cannabis product at any time. Patients and designated caregivers must always have their medical marijuana registry ID card on hand when in possession of medical cannabis. Home cultivation remains illegal.
As part of a patient’s medical cannabis certification, their certifying practitioner must specify the authorized form and brand, administration methods, and use limitations of approved medical cannabis. Dosage recommendations are not required, but practitioners should include them when applicable.
The state of New York currently has no reciprocity law to accept out-of-state medical cannabis products or certifications.
Medical Marijuana Registry Program
New York’s MMP allows qualifying patients to register for an ID card, which grants them access to cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries.
The MMP reserves medical cannabis certification for patients who have been diagnosed with one of the following severe, debilitating, or life-threatening conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
Chronic pain was added to the list of qualifying conditions in 2017. The DOH defines chronic pain as “any severe debilitating pain that the practitioner determines degrades health and functional capability; where the patient has contraindications, has experienced intolerable side effects, or has experienced failure of one or more previously tried therapeutic options.”
Chronic pain must also have lasted three months or more, unless a qualified practitioner “anticipates such pain to last three months or more beyond onset.
Patient’s must also have one of the following associated or complicating conditions to qualify:
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms
Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) Overview
The process of obtaining medical cannabis through the MMP involves the following steps:
- Patients must meet with a certified practitioner to see whether medical cannabis is right for their condition. The practitioner must be registered with the DOH to qualify patients for medical marijuana use.
- Once patients have a signed certification from a registered practitioner, they apply for a registry ID card online. Patients will receive a registry ID card in the mail once their application is approved.
- Patients may then visit a registered medical marijuana dispensing facility to purchase products that were prescribed by a practitioner. Patients should bring their certification form and registry ID card to make a purchase.
All practitioners seeking to issue medical marijuana certifications must be licensed physicians qualified to treat one or more of the qualifying conditions. Practitioners must also complete an approved online course and register with the DOH through the Health Commerce System (HCS).
Designated caregivers must also register with the DOH to obtain medical cannabis on behalf of a patient. Once designated caregivers are registered and approved, they will also receive a registry ID card that expires when the registration of their designated patient expires. When purchasing medical cannabis for a patient, designated caregivers are required to show their own registry ID card, as well as the patient’s certification.
Though there is technically a $50 fee for patient and designated caregiver applications, the DOH is currently waiving the fee for all applicants.
All medical cannabis products must be tested by a New York state-located, federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-approved laboratory. Products must be tested for cannabinoid profile, as well as the following microbiological, metal, and chemical contaminants:
- Escherichia Coli (e. coli)
- Pseudomonas, for products to be vaporized
- Bile tolerant gram negative bacteria
- Mucor species
- Penicillium species
- Thermophilic Actinomycetes species
- Any pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide used during production
- Any growth regulator used during production
- Any other substance as required by the Commissioner of Health
This page was last updated on June 22, 2018.