The reception area of Columbia Care, one of New York City's first medical marijuana dispensaries, is seen on Jan. 6, 2016. The state medical marijuana program launched on Jan. 7 with eight dispensaries across the state; 12 more are expected to open by the end of the month. (Mary Altaffer, The Associated Press)

Slow start: In all of New York, just 71 medical marijuana patients

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s medical marijuana program has signed up 71 patients so far.

The state’s Department of Health provided the number on Friday; the program launched on Thursday.

To receive marijuana, patients with certain qualifying conditions must get a certification from a physician registered with the state’s program. The patient must then apply for a state registry card.

The medication is available only in non-smokable form and can be obtained from a state-regulated dispensary.

Eight of 20 authorized dispensaries opened on Thursday. The others are expected to open by month’s end.

Some 174 doctors have registered with the program. State officials say they plan to share the list of participating physicians with health care providers throughout the state so they can refer patients.

More than 20 states now have medical marijuana programs.