Medical marijuana patients in New York state will soon be able to do something for the first time in the five-year history of the program: purchase smokable marijuana.
The state’s newly formed regulatory board approved the sale of marijuana flower on Tuesday, broadening the offerings of a medicinal pot marketplace that had only featured the likes of vaping products and oils.
It was the first meeting for the so-called Cannabis Control Board, which is comprised of five board members and is “charged with implementing the Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act and advancing the cannabis industry in New York State.”
The meeting came two weeks after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul made her final two appointments to the panel.
The Cannabis Control Board operates under the Office of Cannabis Management, which was created by the law passed earlier this year that legalized recreational pot use in the state of New York.
As defined under the law, the Office of Cannabis Management is “a first in the nation comprehensive regulatory structure to oversee the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation of medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp within New York State.”
New York Makes a Change
But while recreational marijuana sales are still roughly 18 months away from taking effect in the Empire State, Democrats in Albany have pushed the new regulatory agency to forge ahead with changes to the medical marijuana program, which officially launched in 2016.
Hochul, too, has called for greater urgency in rolling out the new marijuana reforms in the state.
“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long,” Hochul said in announcing her appointments to the board last month. “I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running.”
Hochul, who assumed office in August following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, has said that one of her “top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running.”
According to the Buffalo News, the Cannabis Control Board approved other reforms on Tuesday, announcing that it was “immediately loosening rules governing the state’s medical marijuana program, including greatly expanding who can prescribe medical marijuana—to include everyone from dentists to midwives.”
The newspaper noted that expanding the group of officials who can prescribe marijuana “will sharply broaden the list of health care participants to include anyone licensed to dispense a controlled substance, which besides dentists can include podiatrists and other fields of medical care.”
Currently, according to the Buffalo News, there are currently “nearly 3,400 health care practitioners, who are mostly physicians, nurse practitioners and some physician assistants, [who] have been approved to certify patients as eligible for the drug.”
Moreover, the newspaper reported that the board “also doubled to 60 days the supply of marijuana that can be dispensed, abolishing the patient and caregiver $50 registration fee and making it easier for facilities, including hospitals, to dispense medical marijuana to patients.”
But the biggest headline out of Tuesday’s meeting was the addition of smokable flower to the state’s medical marijuana supplies, offering a more economical option for patients who thus far have only been able to acquire pills, vapes and oils. Now they will also be able to obtain smokable cannabis if that’s their choice of medication.
Sales of marijuana flower at the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries will not begin “until certain quality control measures are conducted by the state,” according to the Buffalo News.
The board did, however, reject one proposal. According to the newspaper, “cultivation of marijuana by people approved for medical reasons was not approved Tuesday because of a six-month delay in appointing the new board.”