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Video: City & State interview re Medical Marijuana


With Jon Lentz, City & State, July 10, 2015

With the winning medical marijuana bids expected to be announced soon, a state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation to create the program said it’s unclear how the best applicants will be identified.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who has championed medical marijuana for years, said that applicants for one of five licenses in New York do have to meet a number of requirements to qualify, such as the ability to produce enough treatments, an effective operating plan and a distribution system that ensures geographic diversity.

But if many of the 43 applicants meet the basic qualifications, Gottfried said, it’s unclear how one will come out ahead of another.

“That statute and the regulations have a zillion things, almost an outrageous number of details you have to comply with, but if 20 of the 43 applicants all comply with the requirements, there is nothing in the statute or the regulations that tells the Health Department which of those 20 qualified bidders should get a contract,” the lawmaker said, “which to me is a pretty problematic situation.”

“If the state is going to be handing out what may be a very valuable license, and there’s no regulatory basis or criteria for picking applicant No. 6 as opposed to applicant No. 12, to me that’s an invitation to trouble,” Gottfried continued. “But that’s how the regulations are written.”

Gottfried also argued that New York’s new system is over-regulated, while more dangerous drugs like morphine or hydrocodone are less tightly controlled. For example, the state law lists a number of specific conditions that are allowed to be treated with medical marijuana instead of letting a doctor determine which patients need the drug.

“Nobody needs a photo ID card to fill a prescription for morphine, and some of the state regulations governing the handling of medical marijuana are bizarre compared with handling of anything else,” he said.

Gottfried also discussed what kinds of businesses will be able to compete for a license in New York, a bill before the governor that would expedite access to treatment on a limited basis and how legalizing medical marijuana has no bearing on allowing recreational use of the drug.