NEW YORK: Last night the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released the final regulations for New York’s medical marijuana program. The announcement followed a period of public comment in which patients, families, experts, and industry professionals submitted more than a thousand letters and emails critiquing the proposed regulations for being too restrictive and unworkable. In response to this incredible level of input from the public and private industry, the Department of Health made absolutely no substantive changes to the regulations. Instead, they made only handful of technical fixes, such as correcting typos.
Twenty-two other states have passed medical marijuana laws, five jurisdictions have passed laws taxing and regulating marijuana for adult use, and the federal government has made clear that they will not interfere with properly administered state marijuana programs. Despite this, the Cuomo Administration, in its response to the public comments, repeatedly uses federal laws as an excuse for inaction.
Last June, the New York State legislature passed a medical marijuana law after years of advocacy by patients and families across the state. In the final days of the 2014 legislative session, the Cuomo Administration demanded a series of amendments to the bill, severely limiting its scope and creating one of the country’s narrowest medical marijuana programs. The law that was passed, while narrow, gave the Health Commissioner the authority to make the program more expansive. Unfortunately, the final regulations make clear that the Commissioner will not use his authority to expand the program and that the Cuomo Administration intends to make the program as restrictive as possible – even if that makes the program unworkable and leaves patients to suffer.