A year-and-a-half after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, residents of New York State now have clinics to service their prescriptions.

New York's First Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Open Their Doors

A long ways from California

New York has now joined Washington D.C. as well as 22 other states in offering medical marijuana to patients that qualify. Unlike California, for example, that allows any doctor to write a prescription for nearly any ailment and is immediately given a host of smoking or edible options, New York’s program doesn’t allow for any smoke-able purchases and is highly regulated as to who is deemed eligible for treatment.”

“Our program ensures the availability of pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana products for certified patients and establishes strict regulatory controls to protect public health and safety,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.

Only doctors who have undergone state certification are allowed to prescribe marijuana and only to patients with terminal illnesses and serious diseases such as AIDS, cancer, Parkinson’s and epilepsy.

Additionally, those that have prescriptions are strictly prohibited from personal cultivation unlike most states that have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Eight marijuana clinics slated to open on Thursday

After evaluation of how to move forward following the signing of the Compassionate Care Act, the state licensed five organizations to manufacture the smokeless products with each organization allowed to operate four clinics.

Eight of those were expected to open today with the other twelve expected to open before the end of January.

Today saw the opening of a clinic on East 14th Street in Manhattan.Other locations opening are in Westchester County; Kingston; Albany; two in the Buffalo area; and two in the Finger Lakes region.

With the opening of the dispensaries thousands will be offered literal relief but many believe the program is far to restrictive to have much of an impact.

“At best, it could be seen as a half-step, but not a full step, to embracing the actual medical utility of cannabis,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

New York has been home to near draconian marijuana legislation since the 1970’s though in New York City the police and prosecutors have, in the last few years, opted not to enforce or prosecute casual possession of small amounts of the drug.