Welcome To Legalized Marijuana, New York

In very cool New York health and wellness news, New York's first medical marijuana dispensaries are opening their doors this month. 


In July 2014 New York State passed the Compassionate Care Act:"to provide a comprehensive, safe and effective medical marijuana program that meets the needs of New Yorkers. The program will ensure that medical marijuana is available for certified patients with serious conditions and is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety." 

Under the current law, most New York residents will never step foot inside the dispensary buildings. But for patients suffering with cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, and Huntington's disease, the dispensaries could provide welcome relief. 

If you do suffer from any of the above conditions, you can get certified by a qualified physician who is registered with the dispensary program. When you receive certification from a physician, you can apply for registration online; there is a $50 application fee which low income patients can ask to be waived. Once approved, you will receive an ID card in the mail to show at the dispensary. 


Five companies were awarded licenses to open dispensaries in New York State. The license allows each company one manufacturing facility, and four dispensaries. While all plan to open multiple locations, currently the first five locations are:

  • Rochester, dispensary run by Columbia Care, set to open January 5th.
  • Syracuse, dispensary run by Etain, LLC., set to open late January.
  • Westchester, dispensary run by Empire State Health Solutions, set to open January 5.
  • Lake Success, dispensary run by Bloomfield Industries, no date set to open but hopefully late January.
  • Liverpool, dispensary run by PharmaCann, set to open the second week of January.
  • Columbia Care also plans to open a dispensary in Union Square on 14th street between Second and Third avenue later this year.

Legally, the dispensaries can only sell marijuana in oil and liquid form. The Compassionate Care Act does not include smoking marijuana as a certified medical use.


We're at the very beginning here. The Health Department only introduced the training program for doctors to become certified in October. There are currently only three certified doctors in all of New York State registered; one in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan, and one in Elmhurst.

Adding to this issue: The Compassionate Care Act requires patients to get their certifications from doctors trained to specifically treat their qualifying illnesses. That means a general practitioner is not allowed to certify a patient; only doctors trained in oncology, pain management, or another highly specialized field can currently participate.

We hope that as people become more used to the idea of legalized marijuana for medical benefits, the Compassionate Care Act will expand to treat a larger audience. Because here's the thing:


Marijuana, a completely natural plant, has been shown to be extremely effective in providing relief for a ton of ailments that aren't even yet addressed by the Compassionate Care Act. In addition to treating pain for all the illnesses listed in the beginning of the article, marijuana has also been shown to be highly effective at treating anxiety, boosting metabolism, calming symptoms of lupus, treating PTSD, and protecting the brain after a stroke, to just name a few! 


You know we love local, and the Compassionate Care Act requires all marijuana sold at the dispensaries to be grown in New York State. This means more jobs for more people, and a lower environmental impact than if it was being imported. So awesome. 


If you want to participate in the process of enacting legalized medical marijuana in New York State and expanding the bill, you can join the Compassionate Care NY campaign here for updates on how you can help.