One of the downsides to New York’s medical marijuana program is there are simply not enough cannabis producers and dispensaries to provide patients with convenient access to the medicine they need. However, this is all about to change, according to a report from the Times Union.
It appears that state health officials have finally made the decision to proceed with plans to issue additional licenses to companies interested in the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis products. The NY Department of Health will reportedly reach out applicants who failed to secure a license in 2015.
But while the move is destined to benefit thousands of patients across the state, the five cannabis producers already in the mix are upset because they feel the move will cause them even more financial strain than they’ve already experience over the past year.
Some of the latest statistics show that while Governor Cuomo’s administration initially projected annual revenues from the sale of medical marijuana to be around $4 million, the market only generated enough cash flow to contribute $500,000 in tax revenue to state coffers.
Although the state maintains that medical marijuana has always been in the interest of “public health,” and never intended to be a significant part of the state’s financial plan, there were obviously concerns that failure to expand the program would bring about its demise.
It is for this reason that health officials made the move last year to expand program participation to patients suffering from “chronic pain” – wich was predicted to open the program up to thousands of additional patients.
Nevertheless, some members of New York’s medical marijuana industry say the latest expansion effort will cause more harm than good.
“This misguided attempt to expand the marijuana program could end up killing the program and leaving thousands of patients without access to life-sustaining medicine," one anonymous industry participant told the New York Daily News.
But the Health Department says “ensuring patients are able to get the relief they need is our top priority,” which is the reason the state wants to provide them with more products and dispensary access.
“While it is unsurprising that any business might oppose more competition in the market, additional registered organizations will improve patient access to the program throughout New York State, and patients will also benefit from a broader range of available medical marijuana products,” the department said in a statement.
However, industry leaders argue that the expansion is worthless without enough doctors willing to recommend the herb to their patients. Most physicians don’t want anything to do with marijuana until the federal government no longer classifies it as one of the most dangerous drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Some of them fear that their participation in the program could lead to problems with the DEA and issues with malpractice insurance.
As it stands, there are only around 14,000 patients in New York with clearance to use medical marijuana. Dispensary owners in states with similar medical marijuana laws have said a state needs at least 30,000 patients to have a fighting chance at survival.