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Medical marijuana laws are too restrictive in New York, critics claim

Last month, New York finally launched its own medical marijuana program - making it the 23rd state in the country to legalize the medical use of cannabis. However, while this new legislation was supposed to help those patients most it need, some argue that the program is simply too restrictive for many patients to do much good.

For instance, according to a report by Time magazine, New York is limiting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to 20, which pales in comparison to the hundreds of dispensaries in states such as Colorado and California.

Also, unlike many other states in which medical marijuana is legal, New York patients are not permitted to smoke the drug. They can only take it by capsule or in liquid/oil form. In addition, qualifying patients are limited to those who suffer from debilitating or life threatening conditions, such as HIV, AIDS, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiples sclerosis and Huntington's disease.

Dismal doctor/patient numbers

While the restrictions mentioned above might not sound like much, there is evidence to suggest that they are nevertheless hindering patients' abilities to get access to medical marijuana. For example, despite the fact that medical marijuana has been legal for well over a month, as of February 16 state officials report that fewer than 400 doctors have registered for the program - with only 921 patients certified by these doctors.

Keep in mind, there are roughly 79,000 active physicians in New York State, not to mention an estimated 500,000 patients who are believed to qualify for medical marijuana.

So what now?

Regardless of the reason for such low numbers, however, it is clear that many patients who need medical marijuana are simply not gaining access to it. For many of these patients, marijuana might by their best, and only, option for pain relief - meaning they risk possible marijuana possession charges if they decide to use the drug without proper certification. Simply put, they are often left with no good option.

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Robert D. DiDio
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