1. Smoking marijuana (medical or otherwise) is still illegal in New York State @venusinorbit / Via instagram.com Unlike other states, such as California, New York continues to criminalize the smoking of marijuana, in order not to undermine the state's decades-long and successful effort to decrease smoking more broadly. The lawmakers assume that any effort to reduce the stigma associated with smoking (e.g. by legalizing the smoking of medical marijuana) will increase smoking rates among New Yorkers, particularly the youth. This legislation would avoid this public health risk. The bill also continues to prohibit the smoking, consumption, vaporizing and growing of medical marijuana in a public place, regardless of the form of medical marijuana authorized by patient's certification. 2. You need to be a patient certified by a practitioner in order to obtain medical marijuana Wiki Commons / Via upload.wikimedia.org In order to obtain medical marijuana, a person must be certified by a physician, trained and registered with the Department of Health (DOH), licensed by the state and qualified to treat the serious condition for which the patient is being treated. Once certification is approved by the DOH, the patient will be issued an identification card, such as this one issued in California (NYS legislators have 18 months to issue regulations, so there is currently no available image for the NY ID card), which would expire after one year, but is renewable. Oh, and if you're a doctor, you obviously can't issue a certification for yourself. 3. Illnesses and conditions covered under the medical marijuana bill Wiki Commons / Via upload.wikimedia.org The following are severe, debilitating or life-threatening illnesses covered under the medical marijuana bill: cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage causing spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, or Huntington's disease. Medical marijuana can be prescribed for any patient with the above mentioned illnesses, particularly those experiencing the following conditions: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms or any such conditions added by the Commissioner of the DOH. Currently under review are the following diseases: alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, post-traumatic stress disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. This provision is particularly significant for returning veterans with PTSD since studies have shown that by aiding in memory extinction, marijuana could help patients reduce their association between stimuli (perhaps loud noises or stress) and the traumatic situations in their past. 4. The bill provides for criminal penalties for the misuse and abuse of medical marijuana Wiki Commons / Via upload.wikimedia.org Any physician who issues a certification when patient has no medical need for the medical marijuana or when certification was requested for a purpose other than to treat serious condition will be charged with a class E felony, which can land the issuing physician to imprisonment of up to four years (as an aside, prison overcrowding is a current problem - mostly due to the discriminatory policing and enforcement of drug laws). A patient who transfers medical marijuana who is not authorized to possess medical marijuana will be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which calls for imprisonment of up to three months. Most significantly, the new law will charge patients or caregivers with a class A misdemeanor (imprisonment of up to a year) if they retain an amount of marijuana in excess of their 30-day authorized supply. Compare this to other states, such as California, which allows for the possession of up to 8 oz. usable and 6 mature or 12 immature plants. 5. Non-discrimination provision Wiki Commons / Via upload.wikimedia.org A useful provision in the bill protects patients, designated caregivers, practitioners, registered organizations (including their employees) are protected from arrest, prosecution and other penalties. Further, a certified patient shall be deemed as having a disability and will enjoy protections afforded to those who are disabled. This bill truly is an act of compassionate by the state legislators, bringing much-needed relief to New Yorkers with serious medical conditions, such as 14-year-old Oliver Miller of Long Island, who suffers from seizures as a result of a brain stem injury; Bruce, a veteran who suffers from muscle, nerve and bone pain resulting from a spinal cord injury; or Donna, a grandmother who was diagnosed with MS. Click here to read some of the stories of people who will hugely benefit from this bill.