Even after medical marijuana use is made legal on a state level through legislations, those who would provide it to the public often have to go through multiple levels of red tape to open their doors. After months of navigating through bureaucratic roadblocks and community anxieties, two Long Island medical marijuana dispensaries have opened to the public on Friday. 
New York recently joined 22 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., that will allow patients to legally have access to medical marijuana. Tightly-regulated dispensaries are cropping up across the state, but it has been a slow process. The Long Island dispensaries faced their own challenges in order to open.
Only patients with 10 medical conditions, such as HIV, AIDS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and cancer, qualify for the medical marijuana certificates given by physicians registered with the New York State Department of Health. The doctors have to undergo a four-hour training course and pay a $249 fee. As of this week, 409 patients have signed up in New York and 302 doctors have registered. These numbers are growing, though. 
Despite the restrictions and the slow implementation of the program, state Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), who has been sponsoring medical marijuana legislation for almost two decades, remains optimistic. He says that with all the regulations, “you would think they were delivering plutonium.”
Even with the current restrictions in place to ‘curb abuse,’ there is a hope that at least five more medical conditions will also soon be cleared for treatment with medical marijuana, making it easier for dispensaries to cater to those who might seek cannabis as a cure for their ailments.
Julie Netherland, a director at the Drug Policy Alliance, which runs the Compassionate Care coalition of patients and caregivers and was involved in lobbying for the bill in New York says:
“It is a fairly narrow and restrictive program. You can see that there are huge areas of the state that are not well served and Long Island is one of them. It’s a big area and only two are slated to open. The very people who qualify for the program are some of the sickest and most disabled folks in New York for whom travel can be really difficult and burdensome.”
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.