Sufferers are struggling. Repair NY’s medical hashish program (Editorial Board Opinion)

The legalization of hashish for leisure use has perversely harmed the individuals who have used the drug for medical functions for years. Many sufferers are unable to acquire medical marijuana due to bureaucratic and expertise failures inside state authorities.

Reporting by Hashish Insider’s Brad Racino final week detailed the difficulties sufferers encounter once they attempt to fill a health care provider’s prescription for medical marijuana. He wrote:

“Pissed off sufferers – some affected by melancholy, nervousness, migraines, and the results of chemotherapy – are caught with lengthy delays to enroll within the medical program and are unable to get the care they want. As a substitute of including sufferers, New York is watching them bail, with some resorting to the grey market.”

Racino documented issues with sufferers ready weeks or months for medical playing cards from the Workplace of Hashish Administration, solely to search out that the playing cards don’t work; a damaged knowledge administration system that has been down for 3 weeks and counting; and the unexplained closure of a supply service that served rural sufferers, forcing them to drive lengthy distances to get their medicine.

The consequence: Sufferers are struggling needlessly. OCM’s assurances that they’re working to resolve the issues plaguing the medical marijuana market are chilly consolation to them.

Some aren’t ready for New York to get its act collectively. They’re buying marijuana on their very own, from illicit sellers. Perpetuating that underground economic system works counter the state’s efforts to create a authorized hashish market. The variety of registered sufferers dropped 12,500 from January to June, to 124,000. New Jersey has 130,000 registered sufferers with a inhabitants lower than half the scale of New York’s.

That is simply the newest downside with New York’s medical marijuana program. Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo reluctantly signed it into regulation in 2014, after years of dithering. He insisted on strict controls to stop abuse of the drug – so strict that it was extraordinarily laborious for sufferers to acquire it. There have been too many guidelines, too many delays and too few dispensaries to serve the state’s inhabitants.

The rollout of New York’s leisure hashish business additionally has been rocky. Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in March 2021, creating the Workplace of Hashish Administration to supervise all points of the drug’s cultivation, manufacturing, sale and distribution – together with the medical marijuana program. The governor hemmed and hawed over naming administrators for the company and a Hashish Management Board — till scandals pressured him to resign in August. A month later, Gov. Kathy Hochul lastly made these appointments to get the leisure business rolling eventually.

OCM took its eye off the ball of the medical marijuana element of its mandate. It must deal with fixing these issues and increasing entry.

The Hochul administration additionally wants to face up a key pillar of New York’s hashish business: fairness and social justice. The criminalization of marijuana and over-policing of minority communities exacted a heavy value. Communities harmed by the battle on medicine are speculated to be first in line for enterprise alternatives created by authorized hashish. But, as Racino reported, “The OCM’s chief fairness officer place, in addition to a 13-member advisory board meant to help the OCM and Hashish Management Board, are vacant greater than eight months after the businesses held their first public assembly.”

So what if there are some vacant chairs within the paperwork? The dearth of a chief fairness officer means there is no such thing as a one tasked with ensuring social justice and fairness considerations are absolutely aired and included into the foundations as OCM writes them. That place must be crammed yesterday.

Creating New York’s leisure hashish business is a posh job. Delays and missteps have already put it not on time. The medical marijuana program is collateral injury. Fixing it’s the accountability of OCM Govt Director Chris Alexander. The 124,000 sufferers who use medical hashish in New York – and extra who may gain advantage from it — are relying on him.

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