New York state’s Medical Marijuana Program historically has been one of the most restrictive in the United States with strict limitations on the number of licensed producers and various barriers preventing patients from accessing medical cannabis. However, recent expansions to New York’s qualifying conditions and changes to the licensing requirements for medical professionals will allow more patients to participate in the program.

New York’s Medical Marijuana Program has fallen on hard times. New York’s medical marijuana businesses are losing money and blame the legislature for mismanaging the program. Part of the problem is that patients have a difficult time getting prescriptions for medical marijuana and obtaining the product once they have a prescription. However, as we have previously blogged about here, New York is in the process of making changes to its Medical Marijuana Program to remove some of the barriers for patients to access medical marijuana.

For instance, in March 2017, New York finally added chronic pain as a qualifying condition for marijuana. Since then, over 7,500 additional patients have become certified. As of June 14, 2017, there are 21,760 patients in the medical marijuana program, almost double the number of patients from January 3, 2017. Last week, the New York state legislature gave final approval to a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) to the list of qualifying conditions, a move that was backed by the State Council of Veterans Organizations and the Marijuana Policy Project and should continue to increase the number of certified patients.

The process of obtaining medical marijuana is also becoming easier. As we have previously written, it is challenging for medical practitioners to get certified to prescribe medical marijuana to patients. However, as of June 22, 2017, practitioners (i.e., doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) can register online with the New York State Department of Health and certify patients the same day. The Department of Health is also adding a second course for practitioners on the medical use of marijuana, which will be available online (in addition to the original course) so that practitioners can take them at their convenience. Practitioners must take one of the two courses to register with the Department of Health to certify patients for the medical marijuana program.

These recent changes will allow more medical providers to obtain certifications and prescribe medical cannabis to patients, as well as provide patients with greater access to New York’s Medical Marijuana Program. As a result, the demand for medical marijuana will likely continue to increase within the state. However, because the landscape of the medical marijuana law is constantly developing and changing, employers and businesses will need to stay on top of any new legal developments and contact their attorneys with any arising issues