Top Tags

Albany Times-Union: Medical Pot Rules Spur Backlash

By Matthew Hamilton, April 1, 2015

Amid the hectic climax of the state budget negotiations, the Department of Health on Tuesday quietly filed regulations for New York’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

As lawmakers were reading and digesting budget bills, patient advocates and industry insiders were poring over the 121-page document — and found few changes from the draft regulations, they said.

The final copy comes a little more than a month after the end of the public comment period for the draft regulations.

Those unhappy with the draft were equally dissatisfied with the final product.

“They totally drove right past anything for low-income people,” said Nancy Rivera of Troy, an advocate with Compassionate Care NY.

“They didn’t put in anything for delivery for people who can’t get out or people who can’t drive long distances.”

Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who for years has pushed for medicinal marijuana and sponsored the bill that established the program last year, issued an equally sharp rebuke.

The final regulations “show the same unjustified hostility to the use of medical marijuana as the draft proposed in December,” the Manhattan Democrat said.

“DOH received over 1,000 comments from patients and their family members, health care providers and others. The final regulations make almost none of the recommended changes.”

DOH said the blueprint balanced appropriate access and safeguards “to ensure that the entire program would not be subject to enforcement action or legal challenges. Expanding the initial set of regulations would have subjected the state to unnecessary scrutiny and jeopardized the program’s ability to move forward in any meaningful manner.”

Officials have said they want the program to be fully operational at the beginning of 2016.

A company seeking to become one of five registered organizations licensed to run a medical marijuana operation will need to submit a proposal. Each of the five organizations can have up to four dispensaries.

While the final regulations shed some light on the exact framework of the program, interested business owners are anxiously awaiting the next step: a “request for proposal” from the state.

“The regulations certainly help, and they certainly fill in a lot of the gaps from the statute itself,” said Evan Nison of the New York Cannabis Alliance and Terra Tech, a California-based company. “But the RFP is really going to help us understand what the application process is going to look like and how we can best position ourselves and work with the state to help achieve their goals.”