New York Medical Marijuana Industry Lawsuit Highlights Ongoing Problem


New York is home to one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the nation. Only smoke-less forms of cannabis are allowed to be sold, home cultivation is prohibited, the list of qualifying conditions is small compared to other states, and the amount of licenses is limited which hinders the spread of safe access. Out of all of the issues facing New York’s medical marijuana program, the highest priority solution to it all according to the State of New York appears to be to increase the amount of licenses.

When New York announced that it would be expanding business licenses from the current 5 up to 10, I felt that the effort was not nearly as important as increasing patient access to medical marijuana. When New York’s medical marijuana program was announced, I knew that the program would experience serious issues. The parameters in which New York’s medical marijuana industry have to operate are completely unrealistic. When entities were scrambling to get business licenses, I knew that a lot of people would lose a lot of money.

A state’s medical marijuana industry is only as good as its patient base, and a patient base is determined by what conditions qualify for the program. New York’s program is much more restrictive than states that have large patient bases like those out West. New York’s medical marijuana program is simply not an option for a vast majority of New York patients, which has really hurt the businesses that were awarded medical marijuana licenses in New York.

After it was announced that New York would be expanding the number of licenses, four of the five current license holders sued the state and tried to file an injunction to halt the process. Per Times Union:

Four of New York’s five medical marijuana companies have filed suit against the state Department of Health to stop it from licensing additional operators to take part in the tightly run state program. The companies argue that the expansion could tank the nascent industry and potentially harm thousands of patients who rely on medical marijuana to treat their ailments.

A judge did not immediately grant a request for an injunction to stop the process.

I can’t blame the businesses for being upset about how things are going from a business perspective. But I have to assume that New York medical marijuana patients are just as frustrated or more frustrated. New York’s medical marijuana program is in need of meaningful changes if its ever to become as successful as entrepreneurs have envisioned. Patients deserve better than what is currently in place. New York is one of a handful of newer medical marijuana states that clearly missed the mark when it came to balancing the interests of regulation and the interests of patient access.

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