New York is now the 23rd state to authorize marijuana as a medical treatment—though it will have one of the more restrictive programs in the country.
Under legislation signed into law on Saturday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, patients with one of 10 diseases will be able to obtain non-smokeable versions of the drug. Officials chose to prohibit distribution of marijuana plant material to discourage non-medical use.
The law requires medical marijuana be ingested or vaporized. The details of exactly how the drug will be administered will be worked out by the state Health Department.
The law “gets us the best that medical marijuana has to offer in the most protected, controlled way possible,” Cuomo said Monday at a ceremonial bill signing in New York City.
Some advocates argue the law is too restrictive and said they’ll push to expand it. Of the states with medical marijuana laws, only Minnesota prohibits the smokeable drug. Advocates also say the state should allow people with more types of illnesses into the program.
Under the law, the state will approve and regulate up to five businesses authorized to grow and distribute the drug. The operators could each have up to four dispensaries statewide.
Patients would get prescriptions from state-approved physicians to participate in the program. Approved conditions include AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, certain spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and Huntington’s Disease.
The first medication isn’t expected to be available for at least 18 months.