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Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto
(Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

ALBANY — The state Health Department on Wednesday launched its system for patients to enroll in New York’s medical marijuana program.

Patients who get certified by a physician registered by New York will be able to go online to enroll in the program, allowing them to buy medical marijuana when it is expected to become available next month.

The state has targeted early January for five manufacturers to open 20 dispensaries around New York.

“The launch of the state’s Medical Marijuana Patient Certification and Registration System marks the achievement of another milestone toward providing relief to all New Yorkers who may benefit from medical marijuana,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, in a statement.

Concerns have recently been raised about the state giving patients enough time to get certified to get medical marijuana, which will be available in non-smokeable forms for patients with specific illnesses.

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But the five manufacturers said they are on track to have the drug available at most of its dispensaries, and the state continues to assure the public that the system will be up and running on time.

The five manufacturing facilities are in Queens; Rochester; Fulton County, near Amsterdam; Warren County, in the North Country; and Orange County, in the Hudson Valley.

Dispensing sites will include ones in Yonkers and White Plains, in Westchester County; one in Rochester; one in Kingston; and one in Johnson City.

To get the medical marijuana, a patient has to get a certificate from a registered physician. Then the patient would need to access the state’s online system to apply for a registry identification card.

The state has not yet released a list of doctors who are eligible to certify patients; the physicians had to complete an online, four-hour, state-approved course.

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To register online, the patient would need the certification form from their doctor, photo identification, documentation of New York residency and designated caregiver information, if applicable.

For youth under age 18, the patient would have to apply through a proxy.

The state has a list of illnesses that can be treated with medical marijuana, as prescribed in the state law known as the Compassionate Care Act approved in 2014.

They include: cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy and Huntington’s disease.

For more information, visit health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/patients/

Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter @gannettalbany.

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