Medical Marijuana

The 70’s is calling…

Cannabis, the age old “marijuana” is best known as a drug that people smoke or eat to get high. It is derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. Possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. Medical marijuana refers to using marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. In the United States, over one half of the states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Our office can certify you to use medical marijuana, if your condition justifies the use.

Legalization of Medical Marijuana in New York

In July 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation permitted the use of cannabis for medical purposes, following a “lengthy, emotional debate” in the issue in the Senate and 49–10 Senate vote. Cuomo’s signing began an 18-month window for the state Department of Health to enact a medical marijuana program to provide non-smoked methods of cannabis consumption to patients. The legislation awarded five contracts to private marijuana growers who would each be allowed to operate four dispensaries.

State law (as of 2020)

Offenses related to the possession or sale of marijuana and “concentrated cannabis”, outside those allowed by the state’s medical marijuana statute, are defined in Article 221 of the New York State Penal Law. Possession of less than 25 grams (0.88 oz) of marijuana, in any form, is unlawful possession of marijuana, punishable by a fine of no more than $100 if the defendant has no convictions for the offense within the last three years. Those who do can be fined up to $200; on the third conviction within that time period the maximum fine rises to $250 with the possibility of a 15-day jail sentence as well. The offense is considered a violation, the lowest level of offense defined in state law, and thus does not show up on a criminal record.

If the marijuana is burning or in public view, no matter the amount, or is between 25 g and 2 ounces (57 g), it is fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a possible three-month sentence. Amounts in the 2–8 ounces (57–227 g) range are fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor for which offenders can receive up to six months in jail. Convictions for these offenses will result in a criminal record.

Amounts higher than 8 ounces are felonies, all of which carry a minimum prison term of three years in New York. Third-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a Class E felony with up to four years as a possible punishment, applies to amounts between 8 and 16 ounces (450 g), or one pound. Those convicted of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a Class D felony with a maximum sentence of seven years, will have been in possession of up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and can expect to serve up to seven years at most. First-degree criminal possession of marijuana applies to those with more than 10 pounds, a Class C felony for which offenders may spend 15 years in prison.

Offenses related to the sale of marijuana start with fifth-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a class B misdemeanor that covers amounts less than 2 grams (0.071 oz). Fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a class A misdemeanor, covers sales between that amount and 25 grams (0.88 oz). Amounts up to 4 ounces (110 g) are third-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a Class E felony.

Sales in the 4–16-oz. range get the offender a conviction for second-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a Class D felony. That offense also applies to any sale of a lesser amount to a minor. Sales of more than a pound are considered first-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a Class C felony.

In his 2018 State of the State address Governor Cuomo urged the New York State Legislature to fund a study on the effects of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The proposed study would be conducted by the Department of Health to examine a wide variety of issues, including the legal, economic, and social ramifications recreational marijuana could have on New York.

The Department of Health completed its study and has recommended the legalization of marijuana in New York, citing economic, public health, and public safety benefits. Cuomo stated that New York should “legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” and that his marijuana legalization proposal would be including the state’s 2019 budget plan. The study was followed by an amended Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act bill, which would legalize and regulate cannabis in the state. In 2019, New York enacted legislation expanding the decriminalization of recreational use of cannabis, but did not legalize it.

How Does Medical Marijuana Work?

Medical marijuana may be:

  • Smoked
  • Vaporized
  • Eaten
  • Taken as a liquid extract

Marijuana leaves and buds contain substances called cannabinoids. THC is a cannabinoid that can affect the brain and change your mood or consciousness.

Different varieties of marijuana contain different amounts of cannabinoids. This sometimes makes the effects of medical marijuana hard to predict or control. The effects also may differ depending on whether it is smoked or eaten.

What Conditions Can It Help?

Medical marijuana may be used to:

  • Ease pain. This includes different types of chronic pain, including pain from nerve damage.
  • Control nausea and vomiting. The most common use is for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Make a person feel like eating. This helps people who do not eat enough and lose weight due to other illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer.

Some small studies show that marijuana might relieve symptoms in people who have:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Epilepsy

Smoking marijuana lowers pressure inside the eyes, a problem linked to glaucoma. But the effect does not last long. Other glaucoma medicines may work better to treat the disease.

How Do People Get Medical Marijuana?

In states where medical marijuana is legal, you need a written statement from your health care provider to get the drug. It must explain that you need it to treat a medical condition or to ease side effects. Your name will be put on a list that lets you buy marijuana from an authorized seller.

What Medical Conditions Qualify?

You can only get medical marijuana if you have certain conditions. The conditions marijuana can treat varies from state to state. The most common ones include:

  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Severe chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Extreme weight loss and weakness (wasting syndrome)
  • Severe muscle spasms
  • Multiple sclerosis

Side Effects

Possible physical symptoms from using marijuana include:

  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Slow reaction times
  • Drowsiness

Possible mental or emotional side effects include:

  • A strong feeling of happiness or well-being
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Decreased or increased anxiety

Who Should Not Use Medical Marijuana?

Providers are not allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to people younger than age 18. Other people who should not use medical marijuana include:

  • People with heart disease
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a history of psychosis

Other concerns linked to marijuana use include:

  • Dangerous driving or other risky behaviors
  • Lung irritation
  • Dependence or addiction to marijuana

Prescription Drugs Based on Marijuana Compounds

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana for treating any health conditions.

However, the FDA has approved two prescription medicines that contain man-made cannabinoids.

  • Dronabinol (Marinol). This drug treats nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and loss of appetite and weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Nabilone (Cesamet). This drug treats nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in people who have not had relief from other treatments.

Unlike medical marijuana, the active ingredient in these drugs can be controlled, so you always know how much you get in a dose.

Source: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia 

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