New York Becomes 23rd State to Okay Medical Marijuana

By Shawn Dwyer 06/23/14

New York's Compassionate Care Act survived possible death at the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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At long last, New York becomes the latest state in the union to legalize medical marijuana. And while Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed "reservations" last week that looked to put the Compassionate Care Act into jeopardy, he is expected to sign the bill.

"Medical marijuana has significant upsides and significant potential downsides," Cuomo said. "We wanted to do right. And that was the balance that we had to find in this piece of legislation...It is a system that will provide the benefits to people who need it, which can be significant. Even for children, children with epilepsy. But it is a system that also has safeguards, will involve the State Police to monitor and supervise the system."

The bill passed the state assembly early Friday and passed the senate later that day. One of the chief sponsors of the bill, Sen. Diane Savino (D-23), declared  that the soon-to-be law was "an historic victory for thousands of New Yorkers who will no longer have to suffer needlessly during their courageous medical battles,” she said. "Under this bill, New Yorkers will now have the same access to life-changing treatment options that others around the country have had."

While New York becomes the 23rd U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana, there are several key restrictions in place that are designed to avoid the Wild West-like state of medical marijuana in places like California.

For example, the state plans to license only five manufacturers to grow, package, and sell the product in secure indoor facilities. New York will also join Minnesota as the only states to ban smoking medical marijuana. Also, criminal penalties have been included in case anyone tries to defraud the system and the governor himself can "suspend the program at any time on recommendation of either the State Police Superintendent or the Commissioner of Health if there is a risk to the public health or public safety."

Despite the quick passage, Cuomo stated that the bill will take some 18 months to fully implement.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.