New York has roughly 13,000 medical marijuana patients. Only 75-percent of qualified patients have even visited a dispensary. Of those that have, only 50-percent return. Many blame the high cost of medicine and lack of access to be major issues with the state’s medical marijuana program.
New York has one of the most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country, according to Times Union. The number of patients that have visited a dispensary more than once is a mere 6,403. The state only allows five companies to sell medical marijuana.
Department of Health Narcotic Enforcement Bureau director, Josh Vinciguerra said, “If the implication is that only certain people are continuing on medical marijuana because they can afford it, there are probably lots of reasons for that besides just price.”
Patients are still having trouble accessing a doctor that will recommend and prescribe medical marijuana for them. Some of the stalling of the program’s growth is speculated to be due to the passing of terminally ill patients in the program’s registry.
According to Vinciguerra, cost is a major issue for the DOH. The state will continue to do more to add more companies and bring down the cost of medical marijuana in the state. With the addition of allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to those allowed to write recommendations, the program’s enrollment should pick up.
Some companies have taken it upon themselves to lower costs, regardless if they profit or remain in the red for another year. One company has a repeat patient discount program. Some question the numbers saying that the state’s patient base hasn’t been that big and that they don’t have that many actual repeat patients.
Vireo Health of New York CEO Ari Hoffnung said, “But as you now see clearly from the data, we have never had 13,000 patients. We do not have even 6,400 patients because 6,400 patients is essentially a data point of – over the last 12 or 13 months – how many people purchased twice. You can purchase twice and never purchase again. You may have purchased in January or February of 2016 and never came back. …There’s a lot of reasons patients don’t come back.”
New York lawmakers are working to make the program better, to lower the cost of medication and to boost its enrollment. It’s a process that takes time.