The experience that medical cannabis patients have varies across the United States. There is no template model for legislating in this market, and states have decided to do things at their own pace. But what that means is being a medical cannabis patient is not a uniform situation across the country. Some states have legislation in place that limits the kinds of products that medical patients can access, while others allow everything under the sun.
I’ve spoken out before about how restrictive the New York medical cannabis market is, in a previous blog of ours. And it still rings true today. After all, almost 20 million people live in this state and there are only 40,000 registered patients. They are struggling to meet access with demand. Because it’s a sure thing that there are more people who wish to be treated by medical cannabis than are doing so at present.
On top of that, they do not allow cannabis flower as one of the registered products patients can access. Which might be the major reason people are not registering as patients. Having to use tinctures is just not for some, even though doctors would recommend those avenues first before smoking anything, it’s just not what people want.
But recently there have been some inklings that change is brewing in the empire state. In the mid part of January, Etain, a New York-based licensed medical cannabis business, got the green light to offer flower for vaping and lozenges. This decision is much needed for the struggling New York market, as restrictive as it is when it comes to available products, they seem to be broadening their horizons.
But according to a founder of a New York-based cannabis research firm, Matt Karnes, the new change might not be nearly enough to bolster New York’s market. Evidently, the state fumbled when it implemented it because it’s too restrictive in terms of product offerings.
Experts believe that until the state adds the products people really want to consume, like flower and edibles, it won’t compete with the black market. The opinion touted by insiders is that the existing model in New York right now is relatively failed.
However, there have been grumblings as of late that New York is entertaining the notion of joining other states like Vermont, in creating an adult-use recreational market.
One concern is that once New Jersey legalizes, which they seem poised to do, is that New Yorkers will drive across the bridge, buy cannabis and return, further lessening their need to register as medical cannabis patients.
Additionally, the black market in New York is huge and really robust. It seems to be serving the community of cannabis consumers relatively fine. To combat this, the state needs to change its laws around which products are available. The people demand smokable flower, and the laws need to reflect this.
As it stands, New York plans to double the number of cannabis businesses currently operating in the state. But this will do nothing for patient numbers if products they want are not being offered.
But the story remains the same in New York. The medical program got off to an extremely slow start when dispensaries opened their doors in 2016, and some didn’t serve a single patient. But program officials made business-friendly changes throughout the year – most importantly they added chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Because of this, the patient count is rising. Industry insiders believe that New York businesses will start turning a profit soon, despite the lack of cannabis flower.
Expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include chronic pain was a good measure, but they need to keep expanding if businesses really are going to turn a profit.
I’ve been really critical of their program, but it’s not all bad. They allow home delivery and for nurse practitioners to recommend medical cannabis, which has boosted patient numbers. So officials clearly don’t want this market to fail. They are willing to make changes as things progress, so as to meet demand, and give access to cannabis for those who need it.
The New York medical cannabis market is said to be worth anywhere from 20 to 40 million in USD, but this could be so much more. The state has a large population, and no doubt there are people there who are willing to become registered cannabis patients. But lawmakers are working on solving the issues faced by New York’s medical cannabis market. Perhaps over time, it will evolve into one of the most lucrative markets across the nation. But for now, it remains a slight disappointment.