For Medical Use OnlyThe New York State Department of Health recently proposed a new set of regulations that would loosen marketing and advertising laws affecting New York’s medical cannabis program. The proposed regulations were published in the New York Register on August 23, 2017, and are open for a 30-day public comment period before the new regulations are to take effect.

The proposed regulations ease restrictions for registered organizations and dispensing facilities’ exterior signage by eliminating the previous requirement that all registered cannabis dispensaries display no more than one exterior black-and-white sign. The new regulations also removes the previous restriction that banned dispensaries from illuminating, “at any time, a sign advertising a marihuana product located on any physical structure.”

If the new regulations are approved, medical cannabis organizations will be able to advertise without some of the previous limitations on exterior signage.

The proposed regulations still contain significant limitations on marketing, however. The ban on using cannabis brand names or related graphics to advertise on the exterior of an organization’s building remains in effect. And, dispensary organizations still cannot display cannabis products or “paraphernalia so as to be clearly visible from the exterior of a physical structure.”

The Department is also seeking to clarify some of its existing rules. Section 1004.16(m), for instance, forbids organizations from cooperating, “directly or indirectly, in any advertising if such advertising has the purpose or effect of steering or influencing patient or caregiver choice with regard to the selection of a practitioner.” This rule created confusion for dispensary organizations and practitioners. The Department proposes to amend Section 1004.16(m) by noting that “nothing contained within this section prevents a registered organization from educating practitioners about approved medical marihuana products offered by the registered organization.” This addition to the rule will give registered organizations the right to educate practitioners about cannabis products and the various brands the organizations sell.

Aside from broadening the scope of advertising capabilities for medical dispensaries, the proposed regulations would also allow dispensaries to manufacture and distribute new cannabis products, such as topicals, lotions, and chewable tablets. Other proposed changes focus on streamlining the manufacturing process and refining the practitioners’ training course that doctors are required to take to certify patients for medicinal cannabis.

© 2017 Venable LLP. Using, distributing, possessing, and/or selling marijuana is illegal under existing federal law. Compliance with state law does not guarantee or constitute compliance with federal law. This informational overview is not intended to provide any legal advice or any guidance or assistance in violating federal law.