Governor Andrew Cuomo held an invite-only event yesterday at the New York Academy of Medicine where he and a select group of distinguished guests got to witness the historic signing of New York's medical marijuana bill, officially making it law.
Patients in attendance had mixed feelings about the new law, mostly concerning the 18-month implementation schedule that it requires. At the heart of the issue, the state wants to implement this controversial new law properly, while patients want the quickest possible path for access to medication. Earlier versions of the bill included provisions for expedited implementation to select companies with out-of-state experience, but that language was removed in the final version.
Another concern for patients is related to the non-smoking provision of the law. HT spoke with Susan Rusinko of Auburn New York, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been smoking cannabis flower for the past several years. "When the bill was first voted on, I was upset due to the smoking limitation, since that was the only method of delivery i had known, but recently I have been educated on the benefits of cannabis extracts and concentrates and have had the opportunity to try them extensively. I was surprised and excited to find that a single inhaled dose of vaporized extract had more therapeutic benefit than the same dose of smoked cannabis flower."
This kind of education is exactly what New Yorkers need, as many of the patients who currently use cannabis illegally for medical benefit have not been introduced to extracts and concentrates.
New York State has gone on record saying they want to have the "best medical cannabis legislation in the country," which is why they have taken a stance on vaporizing vs. smoking, but let's look into that further. Several media outlets have been correctly reporting the bill as a "vapor only:" The new law clearly states that smoking will not be tolerated. Others have reported that NY is going to have an "oil only" bill which requires further clarification, since it does not actually say that in the legislation.
The bill specifies, "The practitioner must consider the appropriate form and dosage of medical marihuana. Any form of medical marihuana not approved by the Commissioner would be prohibited, and smoking would be prohibited."
Let's break down the double negative. It looks like it's up to a doctor to determine the form of cannabis you should use, which may include flower, extract or both. If flower stays legal (and no where does it say it's not), it would clearly have to be vaporized and not smoked (this begs the question of enforcement, as all usage is to be done in private and out of public view). In the case of oil or extract, it seems like a doctor will decide if the patient should ingest it orally or vaporize or both.
Loopholes like this can happen when you introduce a bill at the 11th hour of the legislative season. Many of the specifics were either intentionally left out or are designed to be specified at the discretion of the commissioner. The next 18 months is going to be interesting for New Yorkers following this debate and a lot of the details will eventually come out as the Department of Health ramps up for the challenge.
If New York does decide to go oil only, take a look at the scene over the past few years and before you decide if it's a good or bad idea. Make sure you've had the experience of comparing marijuana extracts and concentrates to raw flower.