Medical Marijuana in New York
Having lived most of my life in California, I consider myself to be quite progressive regarding medical marijuana. As an English professor, my students generally sat with their chins to the floor when we discussed issues on marijuana legalization. My stance has always been that it never should have been illegalized in the first place, but the worst disgrace is the hindrance its illegalization has put on those who could benefit from it medicinally.
Because of its classification by the federal government as a schedule 1 drug and non marijuana smokers’ misunderstanding of the drug, it has been poorly researched, misused and, to be frank, underused. For example, my dad is a 76-year-old man suffering from prostate cancer who refuses to use marijuana to help with his pain, claiming that it has no medical benefits, is illegal, and addictive. My dad at 76 is afraid of becoming a “pot head”. Instead, he spends much of his time drugged up on a medication that could damage his liver and says on the label that death may be a sudden side-effect.
That is why when I started educating myself on New York’s stance on medicinal cannabis, I was quite shocked. Granted, as one of the more recent states to legalize its use for medicinal purposes, compared to California which in 1996 legalized it for medicinal purposes and just recently for recreational use, New Yorker’s views on its use will change as it becomes more understood and new research is performed.
Even I, a proponent of medical cannabis card legalization and someone who has been around marijuana whether as a smoker or not most of my life, have my own hesitations. I don’t want to smell like it and will excuse myself from situations where it fills a room. I’m both hesitant at the thought of children using it and at the same time excited to learn about medical marijuana’s positive benefits to children suffering from severe and violent epileptic seizures.
Furthermore, while I believe it should be legal for recreational use, I have seen its gross misuse as a medicinal drug by perfectly healthy individuals who over exaggerate pain so that they can obtain a medical marijuana card and use cannabis legally. In fact, I get aggravated at those that flaunt their legal rights to use in the face of the law by promoting it on social media, setting it in front of them in public places, and advertising their right to smoke medical cannabis just because they can. I don’t begrudge them their right to receive help, and I do believe that it should be de-stigmatized, but I also don’t blatantly place my thyroid medication on the counter at a restaurant for everyone to see claiming I have a right to this medication. To those people I say, “Yes, you have the right, but in trying to give its use dignity you flaunt and immature attitude that takes the seriousness out of its legalization and use.”
New York’s Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Use
When I see some of the struggle and restrictions New York has regarding medical marijuana cards, I am reminded of California’s early years as one of the first states along with Colorado and Washington to legalize medical marijuana. Those states have paved the way for others to follow. Unfortunately, New York had a rough start. As the state with the most restrictive laws on medical cannabis, patients in this state have had a difficult time getting their relief while non-registered users can simply ask around—it is easier for a minor to get marijuana than alcohol. Some of the initial restrictions included
- Restricting its use to those with “severe debilitating or life threatening conditions” eliminating patients with other conditions from getting its benefits.
- Patients can only get a recommendation from a licensed New York MMJ doctor whose specialty is included in the listed conditions.
- Physicians must undergo a training program. The training program is both time consuming and costly.
- Limiting the number of dispensaries to twenty in the state, requiring people in some areas to travel long distances to get their medication.
- Allowing only weed extracts. Because so much of the plant is required to make small amounts of oils and tinctures, the price for medical marijuana has been driven up. In addition, some of the healing properties that smoking marijuana provides don’t exist in medicinal marijuana for New Yorkers.
Some of these regulations are loosening to make it easier on patients who can benefit from the properties in the plant, including a program that allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants the ability to recommend a patient for a medical marijuana card, a home delivery program to help those unable to travel, and the addition of chronic pain and PTSD to the qualifying conditions list. Law makers are quickly seeing the flaws in the program and are making changes to remedy those problems.
Conditions that Medical Cannabis Can Help NY patients
One of the flaws is that they don’t understand its medicinal properties, nor do they have the research necessary to convince them that allowing an open approach to legalization is a risk worth taking. The main medicinal properties in marijuana include THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is believe to increase appetite, reduce inflammation and pain, and relax muscles. CBD has similar effects without the ability to give the person taking it the high they get from THC. In addition, marijuana has over 400 other chemicals. However, because of lack of research, it isn’t certain how these chemical may help in other ways. We do know, on the other hand, that it does help with the following conditions which are listed on the approved conditions list in New York:
- Cancer: Medical marijuana not only relieves cancer patients with a medical marijuana license from pain and helps relieve the side effects of chemotherapy by decreasing nausea and increasing their appetite, but medical cannabis is also believed to prevent cancer from spreading. In fact, some studies suggest that it may even kill cancer cells.
- HIV/AIDS: Relieves pain caused by the illness and improves appetite.
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease): ALS patients see many benefits from medical marijuana use including decreased inflammation, less drooling, relaxed muscles, and increase appetite. The most impressive benefit, however, is that it slows the progression of the disease.
- Parkinson’s: Individuals with a medical cannabis card will find relief from tremors in Parkinson’s sufferers.
- Multiple Sclerosis: Medical cannabis relaxes the muscles preventing them from contracting and causing pain.
- Spinal Cord Damage: In addition to providing to relief from pain, it also appears to help with bladder and bowel control as well as spasticity that cause muscle tightness and soreness.
- Epilepsy: Used to control violent seizures by binding to the brain cells that causes them.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: By changing the chemistry in the gut, medical marijuana blocks the messages that the gut sends to the brain which in turn reduces symptoms.
- Nerve Damage: Patients who have medical marijuana licenses can use cannabis to help manage pain.
- Huntington’s disease: New York medical marijuana doctors can recommend it to slow the progression of Huntington’s disease by protecting the neurons in the brain.
- PTSD: Calms the patient by reducing fear and anxiety. It also may prevent nightmares.
- Chronic Pain: A New York Medical marijuana doctors can recommend it to reduce both inflammation and pain to their patients.
Unfortunately, because of New York’s tight restrictions, many people dealing with other illnesses continue to suffer. Some additional conditions that the use of medical cannabis can help with include
- Glaucoma: By releasing pressure in the eye ball, medical marijuana can prevent optic nerve damage that impairs vision.
- Hepatitis C: Eases the painful side effects caused by hepatitis C treatments allowing patients to finish their treatment.
- Arthritis: New York MMJ doctors can recommend it for reduction of pain by lowering inflammation.
- Lupus: Relieves patients of the symptoms caused by Lupus.
- Alzheimer: Slows the formation of the plaques that kill brain cells in Alzheimer patients.
- Stroke: Protects the brain from further damage after a stroke.
- Anxiety Disorders: Relieves stress and calms the individual.
- Weight loss: While marijuana is known to induce the munchies causing individuals to eat more, studies also show that it may counteract the effects if excess caloric intake by increasing the body’s metabolism
Finally, it is believed that marijuana can decrease alcohol and prescription opioid addictions and other medications that have harmful side effects by replacing alcohol and medications with marijuana. In fact, in the states where marijuana has been legalized for recommendation by a New York medical marijuana doctor, emergency room visits for opiate overdoses has decreased. While continued marijuana use can lead to marijuana use disorder it is much less harmful as its side effects include temporary dizziness, sleepiness, short-term memory loss, and euphoria. It is considered generally safe when used under the care of a licensed New York MMJ Doctor.
New York Loosens Its Grip on Medical Marijuana Laws
It is the California attitude about marijuana that has many New York law makers working so hard to restrict its use. But things in the laws will change as New York grows with the law. Since the state passed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014, there have already been some changes. For example,
- It will be easier for people who are homebound to get medicinal marijuana as laws will now allow more and more dispensaries to begin to provide delivery to medical cannabis card
- The state will offer a $50 financial hardship waiver to help individuals who can’t afford the medical marijuana license registration fees.
- Chronic pain was added to the list and PTSD could soon be added to the list of approved conditions. In addition, the state recognizes that there are additional conditions that can benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana and will review them as more research is performed and prove to show its benefits.
- Physician Assistants can get certified to recommend patients for a medical cannabis card making it easier for patients to locate a qualified New York MMJ doctor.
- Marijuana is now used in certified nursing homes to help the elderly with chronic pain and other problems that come with aging.
Twenty-one years after California passed its own laws on medicinal cannabis, we now have a better understanding of the medication and its benefits to patients as more and more research is performed and data is gathered. Perhaps that and determined advocates is why so many other states have followed suit. Currently, twenty-nine states and Washington DC that have legalized medical marijuana with fourteen more expected to add laws legalizing medicinal marijuana use to their state law books.
If you are a New York resident with a condition that medicinal marijuana can help with, you have a legal right to get medical marijuana license. However, there are things you should know regarding the laws. In addition to the conditions list and other regulations already stated, as a patient you can
- Posses no more than 2.5 ounces.
- It must be kept out of the public view.
- With a few exceptions, it can’t be used in public non-smoking areas.
- Patients are required to have a valid medical marijuana card as recommended by a certified New York medical cannabis doctor.
- Medical cannabis purchases can only be made through a registered organization such as a pharmacy, nursing home, dispensary, or hospital.
- If needed, you can designate another individual as a caregiver. This person must be over 21 years old, is limited to five patients, must carry a medical marijuana card for each patient, and has to be registered through the Department of Health.
If you or someone you know would benefit from the use of medicinal marijuana for one of the items listed on the current approved conditions list, relief is but a phone call away. Our Tele Health platform connects NY patients and NY doctors to see if medical marijuana can benefit your health. If you are a licensed NY doctor give us a call, we can help you .