New York State Health Department Faces Lawsuit From Medical Marijuana Companies

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The New York State Health Department proposed doubling medical marijuana companies from the current 5 to 10 in the future. However, this decision has drawn flak from the five manufacturers already operating in the state and they filed a lawsuit against the state’s health department.

The Lawsuit

The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association filed the lawsuit on April 27 at a court in Albany. Back in 2014, when New York State first legalized the manufacture, sale, and use of medical marijuana through the Compassionate Care Act, it gave the health department authority to register just five manufacturers of the drug in the state.

“The commissioner shall register no more than five registered organizations that manufacture medical marijuana with no more than four dispensing sites wholly owned and operated by such registered organizations,” the Compassionate Care Act states.

However, the same law states at the very end that the commissioner may “register additional registered organizations.” This has led the New York State Health Department to construe that the law permits the expansion of the number of medical marijuana manufacturers.

The lawsuit further claims that this provision of registering additional manufacturers was put in place for a different cause. The ROs or registered organizations have to renew their license every two years. According to the lawsuit, in case one of the ROs does not renew their registration, the health department can add a different manufacturer to fill the void and maintain the tally of companies to five.

The medical marijuana manufacturers have also claimed that introducing more companies would eat into their revenues. The manufacturers are still trying to recoup their initial collective investment of roughly $50 million for the medical marijuana program and state that they have “not yet come close” to regaining this amount.

What Does The New York State Health Department Say?

The department of health vehemently defended its expansion plans and said that it did not misinterpret the Compassionate Care Act or its regulations.

“From Day 1, we made clear our commitment to the continued growth of this program so that the New Yorkers who qualify for this therapy have access to it,” the health department revealed.

It added that the decision from the court to not halt its expansion plans “while the lawsuit is pending certainly helps those residents,” The department of health also averred that it would counter the efforts to “block patients from the relief they deserve.”

Since the legalization of medical marijuana, many states reported significant decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths. A research in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that in states where medical marijuana is legal, opioid overdose death rate has gone down by as much as 25 percent.

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