How New York Totally Screwed Up Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Manhattan’s first and only medical marijuana dispensary is like a fortress. To enter the building, located on 14th Street near the 3rd Avenue subway station, patients have to pass through two security systems before they even encounter another human. First, they flash their medical marijuana card in front of a camera. If everything looks in order, the first set of doors opens to a vestibule and then closes behind them. There, they hold their cards under an electronic scanner. If there’s a problem, guards — many of them ex-cops — will escort them from the premises.
Once inside, the Columbia Care dispensary looks clean, sterile, and modern, like any upscale waiting room. But those familiar with legal pot shops in Washington, Colorado, and other states will notice that one thing is conspicuously absent: There are no pot brownies, and no jars of green buds labeled with names like Green Crack and White Widow. In fact, there’s no smokeable or edible marijuana of any kind for sale.
New York state lawmakers voted to legalize marijuana for medical use in 2014, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law last June. The new law just took effect on January 6 — but it hasn’t made it any easier for sick New Yorkers to get high. Among the 23 states that now allow some form of legal weed, New York’s law is among the most restrictive. Only a handful of serious conditions qualify for a prescription, and so far there are only 71 patients in the entire state. The patients are only allowed to use tinctures and oils, which can be vaporized, inhaled, or consumed orally in capsules. Smoking or growing marijuana is still strictly forbidden.
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