Medical Marijuana Laws and Regulations in New York

Publish on July 15, 2022

Updated on October 1st, 2022 at 07:01 pm

cannabis law in new york

Cannabis Law in New York

Marijuana is a little plant that is quite popular worldwide for many reasons. Initially, the plant was mainly known because recreational users discovered the “highness” effect” obtained from consuming the plant in its different forms. 

However, over time marijuana is now included in many conversations in the medical world because of its therapeutic qualities. It has been proven to bring relief to patients suffering from has been used to relieve patients suffering from some medical conditions for thousands of years.

After some little research was carried out over the years, it was proven that marijuana could provide relief to ailing patients. This led different states in the United States to create a medical marijuana program and enact laws to guard its usage. One of those states that have medical marijuana legalized is the State of New York, and this article will discuss the states’ laws and regulations governing the use of medical marijuana.

History Behind The Medical Marijuana Program In New York

New York started looking into legalizing the use of marijuana as a means of providing relief to health conditions as early as 1990. After several years of putting stringent laws in place to check substance use in the state. This likely started because it was around this period that many conversations arose about medical marijuana. Medical marijuana was being processed into different strains and used to treat a number of other ailments.

At the time, the Governor of the State, Governor George Pataki, was a firm believer in the wonders marijuana could do for patients. After he was elected into office in 1995, he began to push for the legalization of cannabis for medical use. He was convinced of its benefits to the system based on the little research that had been carried out at that time. However, he had many opposers who felt that the risks and disadvantages outweighed any good that could come from its use.

However, it will take nearly a decade after Governor George Pataki entered office for the medical marijuana program to be legalized in the state. This decision came after the state saw the benefits of the medical marijuana program in surrounding states. The medical marijuana law, which was termed the Compassionate Care Act, was passed in 2014.

The law gave Patients suffering from certain health conditions the freedom to use a regulated amount of marijuana for treatment if they received a doctor’s recommendation. Enacting this law was a joy and grief to many, and it remains that way to date, seeing that lots of people still think marijuana is a menace.

In 2019, the Compassionate Care Act of 2014 was amended to allow room for patients with more conditions to be part of the program. It also allowed the use of marijuana derivatives for treatment purposes. It licensed more medical practitioners to give recommendations for the medical marijuana program. This was done to improve the conditions faced by patients who were part of the program.

List Of Ailments That Qualify For The Medical Marijuana In New York

In New York, accordingly, to its Compassionate Care Act which was amended in 2019, you must be suffering from one or more of the following to qualify for the State’s Medical Marijuana Program:

  • ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Injuries to the Spine
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • PTSD
  • Spasticity
  • Any condition that a licensed medical practitioner thinks will benefit from the medical marijuana program.

Laws Regulating The Use And Purchase Of Medical Marijuana (MMJ)

In New York, many laws are put in place to regulate and prevent the indiscriminate use of medical marijuana. Some of the laws regulating medical marijuana use in New York include the following:

Age Limitations

In New York, patients can be part of the medical marijuana program as far as they are 18 and above. This also allows them to grow a certain number of cannabis plants according to State laws. However, minors with ailments recognized by the state can only be part of the MMJ program under the direction and control of a registered caregiver. 

The caregiver must be of the age of 21 and above to be registered under the program. The caregiver will also be responsible for documenting the patient under their supervision under the program. The caregiver can also grow cannabis on behalf of the patient and purchase what is required according to the prescription by the patient.

Possession Limits

Initially, patients were allowed to purchase and carry about 30 days’ worth of medical marijuana supply as far as they were registered under the program. However, by 2021 possession had been increased to 3

A 60-day supply will depend on each patient’s doctor’s prescription. A Doctor reserves the exclusive right to recommend a particular dosage for their patients based on their conditions.

All an MMJ patient needs to do to get whatever they need in their possession is to visit a licensed MMJ dispensary in their area and make purchases. They must carry their MMJ Card issued at the program’s start to prove their purchase eligibility.

Public Use/Consumption Restrictions

Patients in the medical marijuana program are not allowed to use marijuana in public areas. However, a waiver can be given if the medical condition calls for it. Still, it must be done with consideration for others. Anyone found disobeying the regulations will be taken off the medical marijuana program.

Tax And Insurance Laws

All medical marijuana products sold within the State of New York are taxable following State laws. Medical marijuana patients don’t have any package covering medical marijuana usage. All purchases are handled strictly by the patients involved. 

Apart from dealing with the costs of purchasing every medical marijuana concentrate, patients are also expected to cover taxes linked to their marijuana purchases. The tax is meant to be paid or included in the total amount at the time of sale. There’s no fixed amount placed for all marijuana products; the amount taxable will depend on several factors, including the strain and cost of the product.

However, taxes can be expected to be above 5% and not more than 10% of the product’s price. There are financial aid programs that cater to low-income earners who need marijuana prescriptions but can’t keep up with the financial burden. However, this is hardly advisable, and any patient who enrolls in the program should be well prepared for the responsibility that’ll come with it.

Steps To Take To Be Part Of The Medical Marijuana Program

Getting to be part of New York’s medical marijuana is pretty simple. You need to follow a few steps:

Talk To A Licensed Doctor

The law has allowed recognized doctors to recommend medical marijuana treatments to patients if they see fit. Any patient trying to get into New York’s medical marijuana program must schedule a session with a licensed Doctor. They will be required to provide details of their medical history, which will be discussed as part of the consideration for eligibility.

Get Certified

If Doctor believes the patient’s condition will benefit from medical marijuana treatments, the patient will receive a certification.

Register With The Department Of Health In New York

After receiving the Doctor’s certification, patients can now register on the Department of Health’s online portal. Patients must pay a mandatory fee once they complete the form and submit essential information about themselves.

Receive Your Card

Once the Department of Health processes your application, you will receive a medical marijuana card in the mail after 10 days, which can be printed out.

Proceed To Make Purchases

After obtaining and printing out a medical marijuana card, patients can go to their nearest dispensaries and make purchases according to their Doctor’s prescription.


Legal Documents Required To Register For A Medical Marijuana Program

A patient can apply for a Medical marijuana card once the patient has one of the conditions legally recognized by the State. However, the patient must have the following documents to register:

Proof Of Residency

New York only permits residents of the State to participate in its medical marijuana program. To register, a patient must provide a utility bill or a statement from their bank that clearly shows their billing address.

Valid ID

Patients must have and provide a valid copy of their national Identification card or a driver’s license for the necessary documentation.

Application Fees

Patients are usually required to pay a nonrefundable fee as stipulated by the State’s Department of Health. This fee is to cover the cost of processing their medical marijuana card.

Medical Records

Patients are usually expected to be under active medical care before they apply to be part of the New York medical marijuana program. A medical record serves as proof that the patient has indeed been receiving treatments for their condition. It also provides the consulting doctor with the information needed to decide if the patient deserves to be part of the medical marijuana program or not.

Certification Form

After speaking with a recognized medical practitioner, if the doctor believes the patient will benefit from the medical marijuana program, they’ll receive a certification form. This signed form will be provided along with other things to the States Department of Health to obtain a medical marijuana card.

Laws Regulating Growth And Sales Of Medical Marijuana In New York


New York permits their registered patients to grow three mature and three small cannabis plants in each household. There is no restriction on whether It can be cultivated either inside or outside as long as the plants are kept from the public’s view. If the patient is being cared for by a caregiver, the same possession limit applies to the caregiver.

Licensed Producers

Only registered patients and licensed producers can grow medical marijuana in New York. For a producer to be licensed to grow medical marijuana, they must apply to the States Department of Health and meet all the Department’s criteria.

Once granted a license, the producers can begin growing cannabis within secure facilities. Before the facility can be used, it is usually inspected by the Department of Health to see if it meets its standards. These secure facilities must have security alarms, cameras, and even locks that prevent anyone from going out of the premises or coming in indiscriminately.

Before distributing any products, the Department of Health demands that its licensed producers test their marijuana before it is distributed. The test is meant to determine how potent medical marijuana is and what compounds are contained in each one. The test should also clearly state each product’s strain; missing the state’s operational requirements will get a producer’s license revoked.

Commercial sales of medical marijuana outside the States licensed dispensaries are still prohibited. The State’s recognized producers are also the only ones in charge of supplies.


Penalties For Flouting The New York Medical Marijuana Laws

The severity of the punishment one faces for disregarding any of the States laws regulating the use and possession of medical marijuana depends on the crime.

Illegal Possession And Sales

Recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited in the state. Anyone that isn’t part of the States medical program caught possessing cannabis will be charged with a class E felony. The penalty is usually a fine of about $5000 and a 4-year prison sentence, which also applies to illegal sales.

Driving Under The Influence

Patients are expected to drive free of any marijuana effects. Anyone caught driving under the influence of cannabis within the State will be fined. The fine could be anything from $500 upwards, and the driver will have their driver’s license suspended for some time.

Falsifying A Medical Marijuana Card

New York permits the use of medical marijuana only among patients who have registered with the State and received a medical marijuana card. Anyone found with falsified documents or possessing a patient’s card will be charged with a class A misdemeanor. The offense will likely see the offender serve a 1-year jail term and attract a $1000 fine.

Using Marijuana In Public

Medical marijuana patients are forbidden from using medical marijuana in any place like school, market, workplace, etc. Anyone caught using in public with a recognized waiver will be required to pay a $100 fine.

Cultivating Without A License

Only licensed producers and medical marijuana patients are allowed to grow a specified number of cannabis plants at a time. Any other individual caught cultivating cannabis illegally without following the proper channels will be penalized. The penalty is a $5000 fine and a 4-year prison sentence.

Benefits Of Medical Marijuana In New York

Although certain private bodies, government institutions, and organizations have refused to acknowledge the usefulness of marijuana as a form of treatment, Medical marijuana has lots of benefits that include:

Treatment Of Sleep Deprivation

Due to people’s daily lifestyles, more people tend to experience some form of sleep disorder or insomnia at some point. Marijuana contains certain cannabinoids that possess psychoactive properties that can produce sedative effects. Patients having trouble sleeping are usually given cannabinoids and THC because it includes these properties.

It’s believed that marijuana puts the patient in a dreamless state which helps to restore natural sleeping patterns and causes deeper sleep. However, this benefit should only be explored with a Doctor’s prescription because long-term usage can alter useful body functions.

Acts As A Pain Reliever

Pain and not just the average headache have become more rampant among many people in the United States. About 1 out of 5 US residents are believed to suffer prolonged (chronic) pain at every given time. Due to the inhibition, the condition puts on an individual’s everyday activities, and it’s also considered a disability.

Even without meeting FDA’s standards, mainly due to the absence of credible research findings, cannabis relieves chronic pain. The cannabinoids contained in cannabis work on some of the brain’s receptors which triggers its pain relief functions. According to results based on studies carried out on patients suffering from different forms of cancer, migraines, and pain from damaged nerves, cannabis could relieve the patients by a large degree.

Anxiety/Depression Treatment

Depression and anxiety are common conditions amongst millions of people worldwide and could arise due to several factors. Most times, depression & anxiety are treated with therapy and medications, and one of the medications used is medical marijuana.

The brain has a limbic cortex that affects an individual’s emotions and mood. Medical marijuana triggers this system to reduce depression. The system reduces depression by releasing endocannabinoids which cannabinoids can act on because of their similar chemical makeup. Even though cannabis can reportedly restore a normal emotional state, further research will give people more information on prescription doses and lead to widespread adoption.

Improves Appetite

Medical marijuana is excellent for people who suffer from a lack of appetite due to several conditions. One of the conditions that trigger this loss is intense or painful medical treatments like those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. 

Medical marijuana is also used by patients who have suffered from other conditions that may have caused extreme weight loss. THC and another compound known as CBG work on the endocannabinoids to boost a healthy appetite. However, taking it in excess quantities is counter-effective; taking it without a prescription is not advisable.

Treats Seizures And Epilepsy

Epilepsy is characterized by frequent seizures and is believed to result from genetic anomalies and other unknown factors. Seizures are caused by electric disturbances within the brain that cause those violent spasms, convulsions, and other symptoms. These episodes can cause a lot of damage to the brains of those suffering from such conditions.

Although it cannot be cured, anyone who has epilepsy or frequent seizures can use medications as a form of relief. Medical marijuana’s THC and CBD content can reduce the activities of neurotransmitters that trigger attacks. Although, it’s mainly recommended if the patient seems unresponsive to regular antiepileptic medications. It should only be taken as advised by a recognized physician.

Risks Associated With Marijuana Usage

Patients who are given marijuana prescriptions enjoy a lot of benefits due to its therapeutic properties. However, there are lots of potential risks that are associated with marijuana consumption.


Marijuana contains certain chemical compounds that give a feel-good effect that leads to dependency. For instance, those taking medical marijuana could get addicted to the relieving effects and develop reliance, a form of addiction. Additionally, if a patient’s body becomes tolerant to the influence of marijuana, it would require more quantities or higher concentrations to achieve the original effect.

This resistance to the effects of Marijuana could trigger addiction in a patient. The addictive property is why many government parastatals are reluctant to enact laws that favor marijuana consumption.

Mental Disorders

When medical marijuana is abused by patients treating mental-related issues, there is a risk of worsening their conditions. Marijuana can cause paranoia, rash decision-making, reduced motor skills, etc., in anyone abusing it.

Heart Issues

Although not associated with medical marijuana per se, recreational users who smoke cannabis risk exposing themselves to heart-related issues. Specific reports say that marijuana can increase the chances of a stroke because it increases heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, the substances inhaled directly into the lungs expose the user to breathing issues and health-related complications.


Final Words

Although the use of marijuana for the treatment of health-related issues has long been approved in New York, it is still a widely debated subject. Do your best to remain well informed of all changes to the law to avoid facing legal issues as a medical marijuana patient. Additionally, regulate drug usage based on doctor’s prescription to avoid experiencing the side effects of drug abuse.

Organizations, businesses, and individuals need to learn to look at marijuana usage and adoption within the state from a new lens. This would help boost the confidence of those using marijuana for medical reasons. Hopefully, the State’s Medical marijuana program will expand to include several other ailments that could benefit from the program in the coming years.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.