After waiting two years for substantial response to a request filed with the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the names of panelists assigned to lead the state’s medical marijuana program, the New York Times finally received the details. What they found was surprising: Most of the panelists have “little or no prior professional experience in medical marijuana,” they report.
They included a number of Health Department scientists as well as three architects, an accountant and an auditor. They were chosen for their specialties — including chemistry, internal medicine, and pharmaceutical drugs, according to the department — to create a “multidisciplinary team.”
The state’s program has been criticized for a cumbersome and often opaque roll-out, in part because of restrictions placed on the drug’s medical use — for example, it cannot be smoked and must be used in forms like tinctures and oils. Critics have also faulted the state for seemingly opting to create a model from scratch, despite more than 20 other states having medical marijuana programs, an assertion that the Health Department disputes, saying its panel — despite its lack of expertise in the field — drew from other states’ experiences.
The rollout of medical marijuana in New York has been rocky, with patients feeling that their needs aren’t being met in a stable way. A spokesperson for the Health Department told the New York Times that the panelists “were carefully selected for their expertise in specific disciplines” and called the process of ranking applicants “extensive, thorough and entirely transparent.”