Medical cannabis patients the world over gained a new ally Monday when the State of New York broadened its medical pot program to cover ‘any’ condition for which a doctor recommends the botanical drug.

Previously, only certain types of severe disease sufferers (ie cancer, HIV) could safely, legally access tested medical cannabinoids in The Empire State. But on Monday, The New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced the program is now open to patients for “any condition that the practitioner believes can be treated with medical cannabis.”

That’s a huge win for patient activists—who’ve long-maintained that science supports broader access to cannabinoids as a first-line treatment.

In California in 1996, activists pitched medical cannabis to voters as a terminal illness palliative. A court ruling affirmed a doctor’s First Amendment right to recommend the schedule 1 drug for any condition they deemed fit; after a good-faith examination.

Subsequent medical marijuana laws in other states came with narrower criteria for accessing the life-saving botanical. Many American states have unscientific and cruel medical cannabis laws that disqualify most potential patients. For example, Georgia only allows high-CBD/low-THC oil for terminally ill AIDS patients.

New York’s decision takes the government out of the doctor’s office.

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“It is terrific to see the Medical Cannabis Program expand so vastly with the launch of the new certification and registration program and the ability of practitioners to determine qualifying conditions as included in the MRTA,” said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright. 

New York‘s notoriously strict medical cannabis program has been loosening up lately. Since October, it has moved to:

  • allow flower sales (the most popular modality in the world);
  • boost legal carrying amounts;
  • waive fees;
  • and cut red tape for patients at medical facilities.

The Cannabis Control Board recently took public comment on allowing home cultivation of medical cannabis.

New Yorker Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized cannabis possession and use for all adults 21 and up in March 2021. Experts don’t expect legal retail stores this year.

Learn more about medical cannabis qualifying conditions in your state in the Leafly Learn Legalization Hub.

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David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He’s written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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