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Americans for Safe Access cites areas of improvement for NY’s medical cannabis program

Published: Feb. 06, 2023, 7:55 a.m.

By Taylor Huang |

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A national organization focused on legal access to medical marijuana thinks New York still has a ways to go to improve access, affordability and equity in its medical program – among other key issues.

Last week, Americans for Safe Access released its 2022 report, which ranks each state’s medical cannabis program according to a set of metrics. New York, which legalized medical marijuana in 2014, received a C- grade.

It’s a slight improvement from last year, when ASA gave the Empire State a D, with areas of improvement needed in cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensary operations. However, both years’ scores were a dip from its 2020 grade – a C+.

The NY Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which is made up of nine of the state’s ten medical operators, released a statement to NY Cannabis Insider in response to the ASA report.

“The Empire State’s systematic disinvestment in its medical program has significantly eroded equity, access, and – most of all - safety,” the statement read.

“New York’s barely passing overall grade of ‘C’ reflects the steady erosion of its medical program due to the state’s steadfast failure to expand and support it, as required by law. As a result, patients are unable to access the carefully calibrated and tested medical-grade products they require and are forced to rely on unregulated, illicit pop-up cannabis retailers.”

The ASA’s 2022 score is derived from ratings in the areas of patients rights and civil protections, access to medicine, affordability, program functionality, health and social equity, cultivation, manufacturing, laboratory and dispensary operations.

All of these categories are broken up into subfields, and come to a total of 700 points.

New York received a total of 389 points and scored particularly low in the areas of health and social equity, affordability and dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing operations.

This comes with little surprise, with the Office of Cannabis Management being slow to expand its medical program, causing patients who need cannabis to continue to suffer from depression, anxiety, migraines, and the effects of chemotherapy.

The issue is also complicated by the lack of licensed dispensaries in the state.

There are currently just 39 medical cannabis dispensaries in a state of roughly 20 million people, with about 123,000 registered medical cannabis patients. Broken down further, that’s one dispensary per every 3,163 patients.

“As the state moves to adopt updated medical regulations, we concur with ASA’s recommendations that lawmakers must focus on patient equity,” the NYMCIA said in its statement. “While the revised regulations will address many of ASA’s recommendations, they notably fail to implement the dispensary expansion codified in the MRTA.”

New Yorkers have vocalized these complaints about access for years. According to the “patient feedback” section of the report:

”Patients surveyed in NY expressed concern about the looming rollout of the adult-use market, but also, appreciation that home cultivation is allowed. Additionally, they do not feel that access to medical access is ideal with the few number of current dispensaries. Patients are also concerned about black and gray markets undercutting the regulated markets in the state.”

The ASA also gave New York 43 out of 100 points for medical cannabis affordability, but scored the state high in “reasonable registration fees” and “financial hardship waivers or discounts.”

The ASA also awarded the state high marks under its “patient rights and civil protections” category, which includes arrest, parental rights and employment protections.

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