New York’s Compassionate Care Act

With New York inching towards a medical marijuana legalization statute, today seems as good a day as any to look at the proposed legislation and what New York’s medical cannabis regime would look like.

The proposed bill is called the “Compassionate Care Act.” The big questions regarding this act are who will be eligible as a patient and what types of entities will be able to provide medical cannabis to eligible patients?

In its proposed form, the Compassionate Care Act will limit eligible patients to patients with life-threatening or debilitating illnesses for whom medical cannabis is likely to have a positive therapeutic benefit. The proposed bill includes a comprehensive list of the illnesses that would constitute a “Serious Condition.” Almost as importantly, the proposed language also states that the defining list is not all inclusive, allowing physicians to prescribe medical cannabis to patients who suffer from a severe condition not explicitly listed in the Compassionate Care Act.

The process for obtaining medical cannabis would require the patient to receive a prescription for medical cannabis from a healthcare practitioner (a physician, a physician’s assistant, or a registered nurse) and then obtain a Patient Registry ID card from the New York State Department of Health. Registered caregivers will also be covered under the bill.

Once a patient or a patient’s caregiver obtains a Registry ID, he or she will then be able to obtain medical cannabis from a dispensary, which under the Compassionate Care Act would include for-profit businesses.

The requirements for starting and operating a registered dispensary are detailed and complex. We will provide a comprehensive breakdown of the registration requirements in a later post. But in short, every potential dispensary will have to apply to and be approved by the New York State Department of Health to be able to legally sell and dispense medical cannabis.

Potential registrants will be assessed under the Department of Health’s qualifications, which generally require that the dispensary prove it can safely operate within the parameters of the Compassionate Care Act. The ability to remain in compliance with the requirements contained in the Compassionate Care Act will be crucial for approval of any potential dispensary.

If a dispensary obtains registration from the Department of Health, the registration will be valid for two years and the dispensary will be required to report sales, delivery, and distributions of medical cannabis. Registered dispensaries will also have to adhere to New York’s I-STOP requirements (New York’s prescription monitoring program).

The detailed process for New York’s proposed medical cannabis regime is great news for both potential patients and potential providers in New York. Though the patient requirements will likely be restrictive, along the same lines as Illinois’ patient requirements, the clearly outlined requirements for registration for patients and dispensaries will make New York’s medical cannabis regime (comparatively) easier to get off the ground for those who prepared for it.