NYSDOH to Allow Facilities to Become Designated Caregivers under the Medical Marijuana Program

Effective October 5, 2017, the Department of Health adopted an emergency regulation to allow certain types of facilities to become designated caregivers for patients who are certified to receive medical marijuana under New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. Previously, only natural persons could be authorized as designated caregivers, and due to concerns over the handling of the medication, seriously ill, and often disabled, patients who were unable to pick up or administer their own medical marijuana were being denied access to the treatment.

Because many of these patients reside in hospitals, residential health care, mental hygiene and other facilities, or attend private or public schools, the Department acted urgently to allow these facilities to immediately apply for registration as designated caregivers, stating, “Denying certified patients access to medical marijuana, or forcing them to abruptly discontinue using medical marijuana, poses an immediate risk to the health and safety of these patients, some of whom are terminally ill.”

The rule permits certified patients to designate a facility as designated caregiver, rather than an individual within the facility, as patients in facilities are often cared for by multiple staff members. Each division, department, component, floor or other unit of a parent facility is defined as a “facility.” The emergency regulation also provides immunity from arrest, prosecution, penalty or disciplinary action for employees of facilities registered as designated caregivers who act within their scope of employment in accordance with the regulation.

After registering, a designated caregiver facility is authorized by Public Health Law to possess, acquire, deliver, transfer, transport and administer medical marijuana on behalf of a certified patient. The regulation also permits the facility to charge the certified patient for reasonable costs incurred in the transportation, delivery, storage and administration of approved medical marijuana products.

The registration process for designated caregivers is electronic, and the Department of Health is currently waiving the application fee for all designated caregivers, including facilities. Upon approval, a registry identification card is provided to the facility, which must be maintained at all times that medical marijuana is present at the facility. The facility should have its own internal policies and procedures to provide for possession of the registry identification card by staff members as well as proper handling and security of the medical marijuana as required by the regulation.

The emergency rule expires January 2, 2018. Proposed amendments to the New York Codes Rules and Regulations are pending. For more information about New York State’s Medical Marijuana program, including the designation of a facility as a designated caregiver, click here.