Expensive medical cannabis products drive New York patients to black market

Expensive medical cannabis products drive New York patients to black market

Sara Tiradossi

New York State is facing a problem in the medical cannabis industry: it is offering a limited selection of medical cannabis products at an overly expensive price.

Medical patients in New York State have been able to purchase their products at licensed dispensaries since 2016, but they are now seeking alternatives.

Even though the New York Department of Health’s expansion program has approved new ailments like chronic pain as qualifying conditions, medical cannabis patients are now buying cannabis from the black-market dealers instead of dispensaries.

Doug Greene, Empire State NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) representative, said patients can buy vape pens for $30 or $40 in Colorado, whereas they would pay $100 in New York for an inferior product. Other products like vape cartridges and edibles would also be offered at a lower price in Colorado and California.

“Most people seem to think they’re better off staying in the unlicensed market and getting a cheaper product that way than getting it in the program, and that’s unfortunate,” Greene said.

According to Landon Dais, political director of the Marijuana Policy Project of New York, most people go to a dispensary once or twice and never go back because the products are too expensive. Sometimes, patients cannot find a doctor to certify them.

The New York Health Department is concerned about the patients’ health in choosing a product from unsafe sources. Officials from the department are urging patients not to seek out for medical cannabis products in the black market, and calling unsanctioned cannabis products an “extremely dangerous choice, as the ingredients are completely unknown and untested.”

With 31,000 registered medical cannabis patients, New York State plants to increase the number of medical cannabis producers and create five new registered organizations in the future. The ultimate goal is to make the dispensaries the only choice of access, as well as make medical cannabis products more affordable for patients and increase the variety of products available to them.

“The New York State’s Department of Health is committed to growing the state’s medical marijuana program responsibly and is continually working to enhance the program for patients and practitioners,” a spokesperson said.