NY State officials dismiss concerns about January medical marijuana launch
Advocates worry about the program's upcoming deadline as the law's sponsor is more concerned about doctors buying in.
With two months left before the launch of New York's medical marijuana program, the state's Health Department said Monday rumors of delays were unfounded.
"The state's medical marijuana program remains on track for full implementation in two months," said Health Department spokesman James Plastiras. "Any suggestion to the contrary has no basis in fact."
The statement comes after concerns from medical marijuana advocates questioned the state's mid-October launch of the state's $250, 4-and-a-half-hour long training course for authorization to recommend marijuana products for treatment.
The Department of Health also knocked down concerns that its 20 dispensaries would not be operational in time for the program's debut. Plastiras said the five growers are running and officials are regularly visiting both manufacturing and dispensing sites around the state.
The law's original sponsor, state Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, cautioned that the more pressing problem facing the program is convincing doctors to participate.
"The worst thing that can happen is we go through the licensing, open the doors and none walks through the door," Savino told Metro.
The Health Department did not immediately respond to requests for how many doctors have enrolled in the training course.
Other states that launched medical marijuana programs saw slow starts due to the lack of doctors and subsequently patients, who can only register for treatment with a registered doctor's authorization.
Across the Hudson River and three years since New Jersey approved medical marijuana, fewer than 400 are authorized to suggest the controlled substance, the Courier Post reported in late October.
Saving said she had no reason to believe the state will be caught flatfooted come January 2016.
But Julie Netherland, New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the state's readiness "is still the million dollar question."
Netherland pointed to lingering questions about systems necessary for physicians to certify patients seeking medical marijuana, as well as how patients will eventually register with the state.
"The last thing anybody wants is for patients to not have the treatment they need longer than they have to," Netherland said.