New York’s Compassionate Care Act: Why Newest Changes Impact Need for Cannabis Education

New York highway sign with marijuana leafIf you ask most people to name the states in which cannabis is legal, their first response (in general) will be Colorado, California and Washington. But, there’s a strong showing among the Northeastern states of the U.S. In fact, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and New York have all legalized medical cannabis. Two of those states—Maine and Massachusetts—will be voting to legalize adult-use on November 8.

Taking a closer look at New York’s road to legal medical cannabis, what started as a steep learning curve has plateaued over the past year as the medical cannabis program was implemented. Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law in 2014, making medical cannabis legal in the state, but it took two years of emotional debate to put what some call the most conservative regulations in the country in place.

The list of original qualifying ailments, which was too restrictive according to some medical cannabis advocates, was specific to severe debilitating or life threatening conditions including cancer, positive status human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication or intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, and Huntington’s disease.

Legislation awarded five contracts to private cannabis growers, who were initially allowed to operate four dispensaries. The Compassionate Care Act expressly restricts smoking as a certified medical use of cannabis; approved forms include liquid and oil for vaporization as well as capsules and tinctures that can be administered orally or under the tongue.

Costs for cannabis medicine has been expensive too; some patients have reported having to pay upwards to $1,000 per month for it. According to growers, this is in part due to the limitation of producing only extracted oils, which requires cultivators to grow 15 to 20 times more plants to produce the medicine than if they were permitted to sell buds that patients could smoke. However, by expanding the number of growers/producers in the market, costs could be driven down through competition; something other states have already learned.

The limited number of medical cannabis patients in New York also impacts costs. As of October, 724 physicians had registered to participate in the program and a little over 9,000 patients have been certified by physicians to access medical cannabis*. Many say these numbers are too low. Doctors are hesitant to participate because provisions in the program require doctors to make recommendations on patient certification forms as to brands of cannabis medicine, modes of taking it and allowable doses. And, patients have found it difficult to find doctors, access dispensaries, and—in some cases—pay the cost of the medicine.

Another problem faced in New York is the large racial disparity in marijuana arrests. We know that racial disparity is a problem across the United States, but according to information from, New York had the largest racial disparity out of the 25 states in which data was collected. African American New Yorkers are 13 times more likely than Caucasians to be arrested for cannabis possession.

There is good news in New York though; patients and advocates have been heard. Eight new pieces of legislation have added qualifying medical conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, dystonia, muscular dystrophy, wasting syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rheumatoid arthritis and lupus as well as chronic pain.

As of September, there were 17 dispensaries with three more slated to open and a plan calling for up to 20 more. New York is also expanding its program to include home delivery as well as allowing nurse practitioners to certify patients as qualified to consume medical cannabis. There’s also been a proposal to expand the roster of five private growers to 10. And, the new NYPD Police Chief James O’Neill has described “stop and frisk” technique often used when arresting individuals of marijuana possession as a debacle.

Want to Be Part of New York’s Cannabis Industry?

The changes occurring to New York’s medical marijuana program have happened rather quickly—defining the original regulations took two years, but changes to the program happened within the past year. More dispensaries will open, new jobs will become available, more health professionals require cannabis training, and more patients are becoming aware of cannabis as a medical treatment.

If you want to be part of the cannabis industry in New York—or anywhere in the United States—knowledge and networking will open doors. Oaksterdam University is hosting an indoor horticulture seminar in New York in December. This seminar is a good choice for growers, patient consultants, doctors and nurses, caretakers and anyone serious about gaining cannabis knowledge and mastering growing skills. You’ll receive four days of intensive instruction, 26 hours of grow training, networking with cannabis experts, and certification (optional) to help you prepare to work in this growing industry.

New York Horticulture Seminar – December 3-6, 2016

Hotel Beacon, 2130 Broadway & 57th, New York – 10 am – 6 pm


There’s Still Time to Register for OU’s Las Vegas Horticulture Seminar!

Las Vegas Horticulture Seminar – November 11-14, 2016

The Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada – 10 am – 6 pm


*New York’s population is about 20 million.

Resources: New York State Medical Marijuana Program, New York Department of HealthCompassionate Care NYHow Governor Cuomo Made Medical Marijuana Insanely Expensive, ArtVoice, May 5, 2016In Expansion, New York’s Medical Marijuana Program Will Offer Home Delivery, New York Times, August 29, 2016New York Looks to Expand Medical Marijuana Program, CBS New York, September 4, 2016Cannabis Activist Group Opens Upstate New York Chapter, WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, October 10, 2016New Report: Blacks 13 Times More Likely To Get Arrested For Weed in New York, High Times, November 4, 2016

U.S. Cannabis Industry Is Job Generator: How Prepared are You to Be a Part of It?


Just how many jobs are being created because of the U.S. cannabis industry? There’s no denying that it has become a major job generator. With 25 states legalizing medical cannabis in some form and four states and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana for adult-use, opportunities are seemingly endless.

According to a Marijuana Business Daily Chart of the Week from July, cannabis-related companies now employ over 100,000 workers. These estimates include part-time and full-time jobs at retailers, wholesale grows, infused products/concentrates companies, testing labs and ancillary firms focused primarily on marijuana. This is on par with numbers of people employed as flight attendants, or web developers, database administrators and librarians. Wow!

The largest segment of the industry touches plants—cultivators, trimmers, budtenders—and employ 58,000 to 88,000 workers. Ancillary companies that don’t handle the plant such as professional services firms, vaporizer manufacturers, and grow equipment suppliers also employ tens of thousands of workers.

If you’re interested in getting into the cannabis industry, you’ll go further with a good education. Oaksterdam University is an important stop along the journey for many cannabis entrepreneurs and workers.  Alumni include growers, edible manufacturers, budtenders, delivery service owners, and more.

Here’s a peek at just a few alumni stories to give you a glimpse into some of the possibilities.

Big Pete’s Treats. Edibles Manufacturer.

BigPetesBig Pete’s Treats is a family-owned medical cannabis edibles company, focused on quality canna-butter at its foundation for its yummy cookies. After 30 years of research and development growing his own cannabis plants and honing his baking techniques, Big Pete enrolled at Oaksterdam University in 2009. There, he was inspired to start a business that would make use of all the shake that was going unused from his cultivation projects. His curriculum at OU included comprehensive courses in history, politics, cultivation and cloning, as well as butter-making. A presentation by a chocolate maker and a homework assignment to create a cannabis business plan really got Big Pete thinking seriously about his potential business. Upon graduation, he kept his dream alive and by 2010, he had perfected his canna-butter infusion skills and sold his first batch of “Biggies”—made in his home kitchen—to a local dispensary. Each Biggie was made using 40mgs THC from Sativa infused butter. His cookie jar then contained three classic flavors: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Snickerdoodle, all of which are still best sellers.

He soon moved into a large commercial kitchen to keep up with orders. Over the last five years, Big Pete’s Treats has won a number of awards and maintained its focus on making cookies from quality medical butter. Today, Big Pete’s son, Pete Jr. has joined his father in the business and they’ve got a variety of options now including 12 flavors of cannabis cookies in both sativa and indica and ranging from 20 mg to 80 mg doses.  Their Mini Packs of six mini cookies is their most popular, but they also have gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, sugar-free cookies, and Take-N-Bake tubs of pre-rolled, frozen cookie dough.

Read more about Big Pete and visit the company website!

Rachel Jacobson. Natural Cannabis Co Bud Tender.

RJacobsonRachel Jacobson is a bud tender at the Oakland location of Natural Cannabis Co, a collective of patients and cultivators in Northern California. She studied the classic and horticulture curriculums at Oaksterdam University after graduating from high school in Minnesota.

“I attended Oaksterdam University because I believe that the cannabis plants were put on this planet for human beings to utilize and that it has the potential to change the world,” said Jacobson.

She was able to learn everything from taking cuttings from a mother plant to advocating for pro-cannabis politicians and making cannabis infused butter—all within a 14-week course. Now she is a bud tender at Natural Cannabis Co, where patients can find flowers, seeds, topicals, concentrates, edibles, accessories and joints. The company has three locations: Oakland, Santa Rosa, and Hopland.

Final words from Jacobson? “There are so many different routes to go and Oaksterdam will introduce you to all of them, as well as give you the opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals in the industry.”

Read more about Jacobson and visit the Natural Cannabis Co website!

Barbara Blaser. Magnolia Wellness Clinical Director.

BBlaserBarbara Blaser has supported cannabis legalization for many years. She’s a retired registered nurse who worked with hospice patients and periodically became aware that some patients were supplementing their medication with cannabis.  When she retired, Barbara wanted to learn more about medical cannabis from a place that offered professional training. Oaksterdam was the perfect choice as she was stunned at all there is to learn!

“I think the sections on legal issues was extremely interesting,” said Blaser. “The sessions with dispensary owners was invaluable. Their patient focused presentations clearly indicated this is not just a business but a mission to improve the lives of patients with some pretty debilitating diseases.”

Blaser is now the clinical director at Magnolia Wellness, an Oakland dispensary that’s served cannabis patients since 2009. Services are geared to provide well-being for patients and include massage, acupuncture and chiropractic help as well as free services and events such as a Caregiver Group, a PTSD Group, High Tea w/Clinical Director (Blaser herself!), free massage, traditional Chinese treatment, and much, much more.

And, as a final note of insight, Blaser said, “Many of the staff members at Magnolia Wellness are graduates of Oaksterdam!”

Read more about Blaser and visit the Magnolia Wellness website!

Based in Oakland, Oaksterdam University has been providing students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry since 2007. Thousands of students have come through its doors to learn the history, politics, and science of cannabis as well as how to grow medicinal quality cannabis, how to succeed in a cannabis business, and become strong advocates. With 150 active professors, Oaksterdam has gathered the best of the best in the cannabis industry—people with incredible knowledge, experience and recognition within the industry.

Want to take enroll? Oaksterdam offers semester and seminar programs throughout the year. One is sure to meet your timeframe and needs. Check Out Oaksterdam!