As states across the nation lobby to legalize marijuana for recreational and/or medical usage, New York celebrated the opening of their first eight medical marijuana dispensaries on January 7, 2016. Many sufferers of chronic pain and other severe medical conditions are excited about the possibilities and changes to New York State’s policies, due to the uphill struggle to legalize this substance’s use. The process to legalize these shops has been an ongoing process, starting in the mid-1990s when Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried submitted the first bill in favor of medical marijuana in the state.
Requirements and Regulations
Though many lawmakers and patients look forward to seeing the changes in local marijuana policies, supporters also criticize the strict regulations placed on the use of medical marijuana. In order for any New York resident to obtain medical marijuana from any of the dispensaries, the patient must hold a purple and white New York State medical marijuana card from the Department of Health.
The dispensaries have their own set of regulations for serving the public as well. Potential dispensaries must apply to the Department of Health, meeting their requirements for security, physical space, and morality of its organizational officers. The registration is valid for two years, during which time the dispensary must pay a $250 tax for each pound of marijuana sold. All sales and deliveries must keep thorough documentation, keeping the dispensaries on a short leash when it comes to discrepancies.
In Manhattan, Albany, and Kingston, new dispensaries opened their doors at 8:00am, waiting to welcome patients that previously did not have access to this much-needed drug. Many of the stores have tight security and alarm systems to keep their business safe and accountable to all transactions, per state regulations. New dispensaries in White Plains, Buffalo, and the Finger Lakes region are set to open in the coming weeks as the Department of Health filters through the 43 applications of individuals who want to open up their doors as well.
With 51 patients currently approved for their medical marijuana card in New York, business at the dispensaries is slow for now. However, new patients are expected to check out the new shops for questions and information about their medication. An anonymous visitor commented, “I spoke with the pharmacist, spoke with the people. They were as excited about seeing me as I was excited about seeing them.” While it is unknown how many visitors the new shops received, many locals look forward to the changes.