Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in New York

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Certification in New York

Registering as a medical marijuana patient in New York has many benefits, including the following:

Legal Protection

New York's medical marijuana law provides legal protection for the medical use of cannabis under Article 33, Title 5-A, Section 3369, of the state's Public Health Law. Medical marijuana patients and designated caregivers in the state are not subject to penalty, arrest, or prosecution solely for the certified medical use of marijuana. However, they must be cautious not to possess or purchase more than the state-approved limits. Certified cannabis patients and caregivers in New York can also grow a certain number of marijuana plants at home without the fear of arrest by law enforcement. However, the cultivation must be done in enclosed spaces not visible to the public.

It is against New York's law for anyone under 21 years to use, purchase, or sell any amount of cannabis without a certification for medical cannabis (New York no longer issues medical cards). If caught in the act, the offender risks fines and prison sentences of varying amounts and time, depending on the quantity of cannabis they are carrying. To avoid arrest, registered patients must always carry their certifications whenever they possess marijuana plants for home cultivation or approved medical marijuana products. At such times, they may also hold valid government-issued photo IDs as proof of identity.

Lower Prices

Medical marijuana products are cheaper than recreational marijuana products in New York. The difference in prices stems from the excise tax imposed on cannabis sales. While medical cannabis patients pay only a 7% excise tax on medical marijuana products, a 13% excise tax is charged on retail sales of adult-use marijuana products. Hence, having a certification for medical cannabis in New York helps save some costs on marijuana purchases.

Higher Purchase and/or Possession Limits

In New York, qualifying patients with certifications for medical marijuana use can purchase and possess up to a 60-day supply of medical marijuana. The exact amount within those 60 days depends on the recommendations or limitations made by patients' certifications by their medical providers. On the other hand, adult-use cannabis consumers in the state may only possess or purchase up to 3 ounces of usable marijuana per time

Access for Minors

Any minor (under 18 years) with one or more qualifying medical conditions can get certified for medical cannabis and have legal access to medical marijuana products in New York. However, a suitable adult must apply to the state's Medical Cannabis Program as the patient's caregiver and will be responsible for the patient's medical use of cannabis. On the other hand, it is illegal for a person who is not at least 21 years old to use, purchase, or possess adult-use cannabis in New York.

Employment Protection

Per Article 33, Title 5-A, Section 3369(2) of the New York Public Health Law, there must be no workplace discrimination for employees solely based on their use of medical marijuana. Under state law, being a certified medical cannabis patient can be likened to having a disability. As stipulated in Section 201-D of the state's Labour Law, it is illegal for an employer to do the following as a result of a person's use of marijuana off work premises or outside work hours in accordance with New York law:

  • Refuse to hire or license them
  • Relieve them of their appointment
  • Discriminate against them in promotion, compensation, or employment privileges

In New York, employers are banned from testing job applicants for marijuana as a requirement of employment, although there are a few exceptions. While there are employment protections for certified medical cannabis patients in New York, employers are not barred from creating policies that prohibit employees from working while impaired by marijuana. Also, medical marijuana users are ineligible to take up federal appointments in the state.

Employers can conduct drug testing on current employees if it is included in their work policy. However, they cannot use drug testing as a basis that employees are impaired by the use of marijuana. In addition, employers may ban employees from using marijuana and take actions related to cannabis use under these circumstances in New York:

  • Where the employees are impaired by marijuana while performing their employment duties, resulting in the employees' underperformance or inability of the employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace
  • If the situation would result in the loss of federal funding or cause the employer to violate federal law
  • Where the employers are mandated to do so by federal or state laws or regulations

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Certification in New York

Below are some of the downsides of having a medical marijuana certification in New York:

Firearm Prohibition

Certified medical cannabis patients in New York are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms in adherence to the Gun Control Act of 1968. Although no specific law addresses firearm possession by marijuana patients in New York, at the same time, no state law protects them from federal prosecution if caught bearing firearms. The Gun Control Act bans unlawful users of controlled drugs from owning guns and ammunition. As a result, users of marijuana, which is listed as a Scheduled I controlled substance under federal law, are not exempted.

Driving Restrictions

Being a certified medical cannabis patient in New York implies losing the privilege to apply for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in the state. Federal law prohibits commercial drivers from using marijuana, including for medical purposes. Also, a certified medical marijuana patient cannot drive under the influence of THC in New York.

Although New York has no legal limit for marijuana impairment while driving, law enforcement officers may still base their judgments on observed impairment regardless of the level of consumption. A certified medical cannabis patient who is caught driving while impaired with marijuana in the state and is convicted is subject to the same penalties for drug or alcohol-related violations. These include fines, loss of driving privileges, and/or a possible prison sentence.

Annual Renewal

A certified medical marijuana patient in New York who fails to renew their medical cannabis certification after expiration will become ineligible to participate in the state's Medical Cannabis Program. Medical cannabis certifications in the state are valid for one year and must be renewed annually, a process that sometimes comes with a few hassles. Paramount of such inconveniences is having to see a licensed medical provider to renew the medical marijuana certification, which may either be in person or via a telemedicine service. Renewing a medical cannabis certification in New York does not come without a cost. Typically, most patients pay between $100 and $350 as consultation fees when visiting their physicians for recertification.

Federal Prohibitions

It is a federal offense for anyone, including certified medical marijuana patients, to possess, consume, or cultivate marijuana on federal properties located in New York. This is because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Hence, certified medical marijuana patients who live in federally subsidized housing in New York are banned from cultivating or using cannabis in such homes. Federal law also prohibits hiring medical marijuana users for federal appointments. So, it is almost impossible for any certified medical marijuana patient in New York to get employed by any federal agency within the state. A federal employee who obtains a certification for medical cannabis in the state may have their appointment terminated by their employer.

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