New York: The 23rd State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

By Rebecca McCurry 09/05/2014

On July 5, 2014, New York became the 23rd state to sign a medical marijuana bill under the Compassionate Care Act. This bill is extremely limited, and allows doctors to prescribe patients a non-smokable form of marijuana to patients with severe ailments recognized by the state. The only qualifying conditions include:



Huntington’s Disease

Spinal cord damage



Multiple Sclerosis

Parkinson’s Disease

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease


According to the bill, “patients may not possess whole-plant cannabis. Only oils, pills, and/or extracts prepared from the plant may be obtained.” Many people are less than thrilled about the bill because it leaves out many serious conditions, and it does not allow patients to smoke cannabis. It also only allows very few dispensaries to operate.

Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg shared her thoughts on the matter, “New York medical dispensaries will only sell tinctures, edibles, and oils for vaporizing. I still think vaporizing is the best delivery method for medical cannabis, and I appreciate that he (Governor Cuomo) making an anti-smoking statement by not selling the actual bud. But it feels like he’s limited people’s ability to deal with their illness in a way that works for them. I’m not sure that’s the best way to go about it because I think people should decide how they want to digest their medical marijuana.”

Qualifying patients shouldn’t expect to get medical marijuana any time soon though. New York’s medical marijuana program will take about 18-months to become up and running. It has taken years for New York to finally pass a medical cannabis bill, but as stated in an article by Quartz, “only 10% of patients who can use medical marijuana have the right disease to qualify for it.” The report also states though that the list of diseases is very premature, and they plan on adding more conditions to it in the future. Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health explains, “We need to start at some point. As we move forward on this, we will conduct more research to see what new diseases we can add, and we will modify accordingly.”


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