Turning to the Black Market in New York State

New York State’s medical marijuana program is growing very slowly. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, some counties have made very little in revenue, such as Westchester County, which only got $18,000 for the first six months of 2017. Similarly, Monroe County has made only around $80,000 in tax revenue since the NY State’s medical marijuana program launched in 2016. Ulster County made just $3,800 in tax revenue in 2016 and only $12,000 so far in 2017, dismal numbers, and is also home to a dispensary.

In the state of New York, 45% of the tax revenue from the state medical marijuana program is to be distributed to the counties in which the dispensaries are located. There are five growing and production facilities and 20 dispensaries around the state. And according to the state Comptroller’s Office, the county’s’ share worked out to just $263,065 during the entire period of April 2016 to March 2017.

Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said in a statement, “New York state’s Medical Marijuana Program has always been about patient care, not profitability or tax revenue,”

Why is there so little money?

Well, New York started with only ten dispensaries and limited interest from the state’s doctors to be involved in the program, which was then expanded to 20, despite pushback from the original 10, claiming there would be even less demand.

New York is very strict regulations and rules surrounding who can get medical marijuana and from where making it even more difficult. In December 2016, New York attempted to mitigate that by adding “chronic pain” to the list of 10 other eligible conditions and allowed nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana usage, but there is still a lack of sales.

The lack of significant revenue is a concern, though the numbers have gone up slightly. The five facilities generated a total of $16.6 million between April 2016 and August 2017, but $8.4 million of that was from April 2016 through March 2017, a total of about $700,000 per month. Over the next several months, sales improved significantly, another $8.2 million from April to August of this year, making it an average of $1.64 million per month, and the number of certified doctors and patients is rising. Not great, but better than previously.

The Black Market

Even though New York is slowly approving new doctors and allowing additional medical issues and conditions to be eligible for medical marijuana, New York residents are still finding the state’s medical marijuana to be somewhat difficult to locate and get, expensive, and payable only in cash.

Reported by SILive, one anonymous man has significant chronic pain from an accident two years ago and purchases his legal medical marijuana in Manhattan, but each pill only relieves his pain for about two hours. He takes the pills twice per day and it costs him $400-500 per month.

Medical marijuana is not covered by insurance and cannot be purchased with a credit card. Aside from price, Empire State NORML’s Doug Greene has also heard many complaints about the paperwork surrounding being approved and the quality of the product once they get it. “There are vape pens you can get for $30 or $40 in a state like Colorado that you can get for $100 here for an inferior product,” says Greene.

It is any surprise that many users have felt the need to purchased marijuana illegally?

It is less expensive and easily attainable, and while some New Yorkers prefer the dispensaries practices of screening and verifying safety, it really often comes down to the cost.Some insiders say that things will change when dispensaries in New York are allowed to sell a smokable cannabis flower, but right now that is not happening.

New York is continuing to try to firm up regulations and make adjustments to make more money and tax revenue and allow for more patients and doctors to be registered and get access to medical marijuana, but right now only time will tell if new rules are effective.

Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash

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