Thanks to the Compassionate Care Act, medical cannabis is coming to New York

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New York Medical Cannabis Rules and Guidelines

On July 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law. Over the next 18 months, the state will work to establish the rules to allow qualified patients access to medical marijuana. While you wait, here’s what you need to know:


Patients and Caregivers

  • Patients must be certified by a physician
  • Patients must have been diagnosed with one of the specified severe debilitating or life threatening conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, MS, and several others. The Health Commissioner has the discretion to expand the list.
  • Designated caregivers must be at least 21 years of age unless approved by the New York State Department of Health (DOH)
  • Caregivers can serve no more than five certified patients
  • Caregivers must possess a registry ID card for each patient in their care and must also be registered by the DOH
  • To qualify as a medical cannabis patient, an individual must see a doctor, be issued a certification, submit the certification to the DOH (and may designate up to two caregivers), and wait for the DOH to approve the certification and issue a registry identification card. Once this process has been completed, the patient can use his or her registry ID card to purchase cannabis from a dispensary.

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Consumption Methods

Smoking is prohibited under the Compassionate Care Act. The following will be acceptable forms of consumption:

  • Vaporization
  • Edibles
  • Tinctures

Healthcare Practitioners/Doctors

  • Must be trained and certified by the DOH in order to issue medical cannabis certifications
  • Can recommend or limit the form or dosage and must consider the strain and percentage of active ingredient
  • Are prohibited from certifying use for themselves


  • The Compassionate Care Act allows five registered organizations, each of which can manufacture and process cannabis as well as operate up to four dispensaries (for a total of twenty dispensaries statewide)
  • Dispensaries can be for-profit or non-profit
  • Prospective dispensaries must apply to the DOH to legally sell and dispense medical marijuana to patients or caregivers with a valid registry identification card
  • Potential dispensaries are assessed by the DOH for qualifications
  • Approved dispensaries will receive registrations valid for two years, after which time a renewal is required
  • There will be a 7% excise tax on gross receipts, paid by the dispensary. Portions of the tax will be distributed to the counties where the cultivation and final sale occurred, and for drug abuse prevention and law enforcement
  • Approved dispensaries will be required to report all sales, deliveries, or distributions of medical marijuana to the DOH and comply with the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (ISTOP) law
  • Approved dispensaries will have to include a DOH-developed safety brochure with each sale
  • Product testing will be required to ensure compliance and safety
  • Prices will be determined by the state

While You Wait

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New York Cannabis FAQs

What’s happening in New York?
On July 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law. This act will lead to the development of a medical cannabis program to bring medical marijuana to qualified patients.
So cannabis is legal in New York?
Medical cannabis will be legal in New York for qualified patients. However, recreational cannabis will still be illegal under state laws.
How long is the law in effect for?
The law sunsets in 7 years. There is also a "fail safe" whereby the governor can suspend the law based on a recommendation of a risk to public health or safety.
When will the medical cannabis program debut?
The state will take up to 18 months to establish regulations and launch its program. However, Governor Cuomo has directed the state Department of Health to speed up the process for getting medical cannabis to young patients with epilepsy.
How much will medical cannabis in New York cost?
Prices will be set by the state.
How much cannabis is a medical marijuana patient allowed to possess and consume?
According to the law's wording, a "30 days' supply" of medical cannabis is allowable for possession. What that amount adds up to will likely depend on the severity of the medical condition and the amount required for treatment.
What restrictions are there to what a patient can consume?
Patients are prohibited from smoking cannabis. However, alternate forms of consumption, such as vaporization, tinctures, and edibles, will be allowed.
How old must a patient be to access medical marijuana?
Designated caregivers must be at least 21 years old unless they’re approved by the New York State Department of Health. Patients of any age are eligible but the application must be filed by someone 21 or older and their caregiver must be a parent or an approved adult. 
Which conditions are approved under the Compassionate Care Act?
Severely debilitating or life-threatening illnesses are covered. The list of specific illnesses include cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticityepilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), neuropathies, Huntington's disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, and any additional diseases or conditions designated by the commissioner.
How many facilities will open once the program is launched?
The program will allow five production facilities and 20 dispensaries
What’s the Department of Health’s role in the medical cannabis program?
The DOH will issue patient and caregiver registry identification cards and will also regulate healthcare providers, patients, and dispensaries.
What will the process of getting approved for medical marijuana look like?
Patients must be certified by a healthcare practitioner for access to medical marijuana. If they have a qualifying condition, they will be issued a registry ID card and will have to register with the DOH. They will then be allowed to consume medical marijuana to treat their condition so long as the amount is within specified legal limits.
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