Although the rumor mill has suggested that New York’s medical marijuana program will not be anywhere near ready to launch by January 2016, the state’s Health Department recently issued a statement suggesting that there have been no delays and that the program is right on target for its projected release date.
“The state’s medical marijuana program remains on track for full implementation in two months,” Health Department spokesman James Plastiras told Metro. “Any suggestion to the contrary has no basis in fact.”
The potential inability for the state to bring medical marijuana to patients at the beginning of next year has stemmed from a number of concerns, most recently the fact that it took the Health Department until the middle of October to begin offering an online training course for physicians interested in offering recommendations. Marijuana advocates have also been worried that none of the state’s 20 dispensaries will be prepared to start selling medicine on time.
“January is pretty aggressive considering the licenses [to grow and dispense medical marijuana] were just awarded [in July],” Melissa Meyer, founder of HealthMJ, an organization that educates patients on marijuana, told The Village Voice.
However, the Health Department says that all five of the cultivators selected by the state earlier this year are fully functional and will be distributing medicine by the January deadline.
Unfortunately, the real problem with medical marijuana in New York is not logistics, but in getting doctors across the state to participate. In July, High Times reported that, so far, only one physician in the entire state has expressed a willingness to certify patients. In fact, a recent survey of 500 NY doctors found that only one planned to get involved with the medical marijuana program.
Since then, the state has unveiled the “New York State Practitioner Education – Medical Use of Marijuana Course,” which is the $250 4-hour curriculum required before a physician can begin offering patient recommendations. Yet, Health Department refuses to reveal just how many doctors have enrolled in the online classes, which could indicate a lackluster response.
Even if a few hundred physicians go through the required training by the time the program gets underway in January, New York’s medical marijuana law dictates that a patients must have a legitimate relationship with a physician before receiving a recommendation for marijuana. Therefore, many patients with serious conditions, a major prerequisite for taking advantage of the program, could be put in a position where their primary physician is not one authorized to certify them for involvement in the program.
Although the dispensaries may open their doors on time, there may not be many patients waiting when they do.