June 19, 2014, was a landmark day for advocates of medical marijuana legalization. It was when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Compassionate Care Act, legalizing medical cannabis for New York residents. The law will take effect later this year, but critics have already begun to blast the legislation due to some of its shortcomings. In fact, some have even called it the worst medical marijuana law ever passed!
So What's the Problem? Well, Here Are Some of the Biggest Complaints about the Law:
- Limits on how medical marijuana can be used. Due to concerns about lung cancer risks, the New York Compassionate Care Act only allows for the use of vaporizers. Those who receive prescriptions can choose to use a desktop marijuana vaporizer, a portable vaporizer, or a vaporizer pen; however, smoking marijuana and consuming marijuana edibles are illegal.
- Only certain diseases and conditions may be treated with medical cannabis. In other states, it's up to doctors to choose which conditions marijuana can be used to treat. Medical marijuana in New York can only be used for conditions specifically named in the law, which some experts say will keep as many as 90 percent of people who would benefit from cannabis from using it.
- The sale of the drug will be taxed. New Yorkers will have to pay 7 percent sales tax when buying medical marijuana. Other prescription medications are exempt from sales tax in New York, so many feel this aspect of the bill is unfair.
- Patients must pay the state to vape. Before using a wax pen or other marijuana vaporizer, patients who receive prescriptions must pay a $50 registration fee and obtain an ID card. Other states do have similar policies. For example, Massachusetts also charges a one-time $50 fee for becoming a medical marijuana patient.
- Limits on dispensaries. The New York Compassionate Care Act only allows for the establishment of 20 dispensaries, so there are concerns that patients in many parts of the state will not have easy access to medical marijuana.
Did New York lawmakers get anything right when they drafted the New York Compassionate Care Act? Well, there are some definite pluses to the legislation, including:
- Generous limits. Patients can buy as much as 2 ounces of medical cannabis every 30 days under the law.
- Flexibility on materials. Provided that it's inhaled through a vaporizer, medical marijuana may be used in various forms. This allows people the flexibility to choose whether they wish to use a dry herb vape pen or a wax pen vaporizer.
- Protection for those with prescriptions. Although it may be unfair to charge a high price for them, having an ID card does help to protect people with valid medical marijuana prescriptions from being hassled by police.
- Control over prescriptions. While some might argue that overseeing doctors who are issuing prescriptions may be a bad thing, having penalties in place for abusing the system is necessary. By making penalties strict for doctors who write out false prescriptions, New York law makers have reduced the risk of the system failing due to fraud.
So which medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions in New York? The state will permit cannabis to be used to treat cancer, epilepsy, Huntington's disease, IBS, ALS, Parkinson's, neuropathy, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis. Like all laws, the New York Compassionate Care Act may be amended or changed over time, but so far, there is no talk of any modifications being made before the bill takes effect. New York residents who wish to see changes to the law should let their state lawmakers know, and in the meantime, see about getting a vape pen if they'll qualify for a prescription.