N.Y. hospitals left out of loop on Cuomo's medical marijuana plans

Jaimy Lee, Modern Healthcare

Reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to designate 20 hospitals in New York to dispense medical marijuana was news to them.

Officials with the Greater New York Hospital Association said that hospitals in the state were not consulted on the policy. Cuomo is expected to provide more information about the proposal Wednesday during his State of the State address.

The executive action would bypass the state's Legislature and would put the little-known Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program into effect. If implemented, the program making the drug available to patients with cancer, glaucoma and other diseases to be approved by the state health commissioner would be considered one of the most restrictive state medical marijuana laws in the country.

Indeed, Cuomo told the Associated Press he is taking the action specifically because he wanted highly restrictive regulations, more restrictive than the state Legislature might enact. "It's not a law, so it's not the Legislature telling me what I have to do. And that gives me great comfort," he told the AP.

Maryland is the only other state to enact a medical marijuana law that requires hospitals to serve as dispensing sites. Academic medical centers are the only organizations designated by law in Maryland to serve as dispensing sites. But none have opted in to the program since it went into effect Oct. 1. State legislators there have said the law may need to be adjusted because of a lack of participation from the academic medical centers.

Marijuana advocacy groups say they have similar concerns in New York and would lobby for Cuomo's proposal to also include licensed producers and distributers.

“It's a huge concern,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana advocacy group.