Medical Cannabis: A New York State of Mind
The Patient Experience
If you ask someone in the cannabis business where NYS falls in terms of cannabis sophistication, well, it’ll never be confused with Colorado or California. But, I get ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, the patient experience.
It seems easy enough. You have one of the narrowly defined conditions for which medical cannabis is prescribed, listed here https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/faq.htm. You locate a doc. You get a script. You fill out a form that asks you for your name, address and a copy of your driver’s license. You take the script and go to a dispensary – and voila! You have your medical cannabis card and everything is cool, or at least that’s how it should work in theory.
- Finding a doc. There are literally thousands of doctors in New York State that can prescribe medical cannabis. In order for the doc to be certified, they have to take a two-hour class. That’s it. No other experience is necessary. But docs won’t be prescribing a strain of cannabis, they will be prescribing a dose of one of the following: high THC/low CBD (10 milligrams is maximum allowed by NY State),a 50/50 or a high CBD/low THC formula – and dosing is from the Middle Ages. Some doctors will write out a script for the year, the average is $200. Some others will require a monthly visit in order to renew the script.
- As of this writing, there are 19 open and operating dispensaries in the entire State of NY. There are another twenty yet to open. Of these 19, five are operated by Columbia Care. My dispensary overview is based on the Riverhead Columbia Care facility on Long Island.
- Columbia Care. First of all, it was clean and clinical in appearance. The pharmacy staff was helpful and some mentioned the pleasure of an escape from CVS Pharmacy chain. An average prescription for a week’s worth of medical cannabis in the form of a sublingual tincture or capsule costs $54. In the oil form for vaping, it costs $110. None of it is covered by insurance (a national problem as cannabis is still illegal federally). And this cost is in sharp contrast to the average cost of opioids, which are covered by insurance and run an average of $10 per week. Selection-wise, at Columbia Care, you have the options of THC/CBD as described above. You do not have access to disease-specific strains or information about them.
- Delivery methods. You can’t legally smoke in NY State, but oils for vaping, capsules and sublinguals are all available. Vaping goes into the blood stream and its effect is almost immediate. Capsules and sublinguals go through the digestive system and the delays in effect can be over an hour. What you aren’t told, however, is the absorption rate, which directly impacts the THC/CBD concentration that gets through to you.
- The price that you pay for medical cannabis varies from dispensary to dispensary. These prices are submitted to and approved by the state, which in turn levies a seven percent excise tax (point of purchase) on the cannabis. Everyone complains about the cost. Without insurance to help you cover the cost of doctor visits and medical cannabis, the use of medical cannabis becomes a playground for the rich with middle class visitors and the poor kept outside of the park.
A marketing and publishing professional and the Director of Publicity at GB Sciences, Liz Bianco monitors media activity and the “State of the States” on cannabis in America.
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