How to Submit Comments
- Be polite and succinct in your comments.
- Express appreciation: The Department of Health (DOH) has proposed significant improvements to the program!
- If you don’t have time to address the proposed regulations in detail, you can submit a more general, brief comment that expresses support for improvements to the program, including allowing additional cannabis preparations — such as edibles, topicals, and whole plant cannabis — and supporting relaxing onerous regulations that drive up costs and reduce access. You can also urge that whole plant cannabis be allowed in flower form, rather than having to be ground up before it is dispensed.
- Stick to the issue at hand — supporting proposed regulations that would improve patients’ wellbeing and urging additional improvements. Don’t discuss broader marijuana policy reform, such as legalization, or problems with the medical marijuana law itself, which the department cannot fix.
- If you are submitting more detailed comments, consider including the citation for each regulation you reference (we’ve included several below) so the DOH can easily find what provision you are discussing.
- If you are a medical practitioner or a patient, mention that and how the changes would improve your wellbeing or that of your patients.
- New York’s law spells marijuana “marihuana,” as do the state’s regulations. “Marihuana” is an alternate spelling that is in the dictionary. Do not complain that is it misspelled, since regulations follow the terminology used in statues.
Overview of Key Proposed Changes and Talking Points
Allows More Types of Cannabis Products, Including Flower
- The draft regulations would significantly increase the types of cannabis products allowed, including “metered ground plant preparations,” “solid and semisolid preparations (e.g. capsules, chewable and effervescent tablets, lozenges),” and “topical forms and transdermal patches.” (§ 1004.11 (g))
- The proposed changes to the permissible modes of administration are a dramatic improvement over existing regulations and would result in many more patients obtaining a tested, safe product from registered organizations, rather than going to the illicit market.
- Edible cannabis preparations help patients that need long-lasting medicine. Allowing them is crucial to having a program that serves all patients.
- All but three of the other medical cannabis states allow whole plant (flower), and New York should, too. Requiring extracts drives up prices. Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of whole plant cannabis. However, the draft regulations should be revised so that whole plant cannabis does not have to be “ground.” Some patients administer flower raw — sometimes in salads or smoothies — and will not want ground cannabis. The restriction is unnecessary and can be expected to drive those patients to the illicit market.
Making it Easier for Physicians and Other Practitioners to Certify Patients
- The draft regulations would allow medical practitioners who wish to issue medical marijuana certifications to take a two-hour course on medical cannabis, rather than a four-hour course. (§ 1004.1)
- Allowing practitioners to choose to take a two-hour course, rather than requiring a four-hour course, would make it easier for patients’ primary practitioners and their specialists to certify them for the program, thus allowing more patients to qualify for the program. It is unreasonable to require a physician to take a four-hour course on marijuana. There is no similar requirement for opiates or other more dangerous medications.
Modifies Procedures Regarding Visiting Patients, Leaving the Process Too Restrictive
- The proposed rules would modify procedures for those temporarily in New York who wish to use medical cannabis. They would require the practitioner who signs the patient’s medical marijuana certification to state the patient is in New York for the purposes of receiving care and treatment. This is far stricter than what the law requires. (§ 1004.3)
- The provisions referencing non-resident patients should be rewritten to be no stricter than the law itself. Public Health Code § 3360 provides that a certified patient must be either a New York resident or “receiving care and treatment in New York State as determined by the commissioner in regulation. …” The draft regulations, however, require the practitioner to certify that the patient “temporarily resides in New York State for the purpose of receiving care and treatment from the practitioner” and to “so state on the patient’s certification.” This excludes patients from the program if they are in New York to visit family or if they are in the state to get specialized treatment from a facility where no practitioners are registered to recommend cannabis. Non-resident patients should be allowed to use cannabis while they are visiting New York, just as they can bring other medications with them. The rules should be revised to provide that visiting patients simply need a certification from a New York practitioner, which inherently demonstrates that they are receiving medical care in the state. The care should not have to be the purpose of their visit.
Relaxes Some Unnecessarily Onerous Security Requirements, Which Should Help With Prices and Make it Easier for Patients to Visit Dispensaries
- The draft rules would relax rules regarding visitors, which previously only allowed staff, patients, and caregivers, unless DOH had approved a written request for other visitors. (§1004.12)
- This important change would allow seriously ill and disabled patients to have loved ones take them in to the dispensary to pick up their medicine. This would ease the burden on the specific registered caregiver and make access to medical cannabis easier for patients.
- The draft regulations would make a number of other changes — such as the frequency of alarm testing — that would reduce the burden and cost to the registered organizations. (i.e. § 1004.13(a), 1004.13(a)(8), 1004.13(g))
- The Department of Health should adopt its proposed changes to the security requirements that ease the burden on registered organizations while preserving the commitment to security and should continue to look for other ways to make the process easier and less costly. Overly onerous requirements drive up costs, and thus prices.