New York State Next for Medical Marijuana?

By Paul Gaita 01/08/14

Despite Governor Cuomo's executive action on medical marijuana, there still remains uncertainty about how or even when patients can start using the drug.

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New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced plans to make medical marijuana available to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other serious illnesses.

According to a report in the New York Times, the executive action will allow 20 hospitals in the state to legally prescribe cannabis to qualified patients who meet standards set by the New York Department of Health. The plan has greater limits that those in several of the 20 states that currently allow the use of marijuana, including California, where it can be prescribed for backaches or anxiety, or Colorado, where the January 1, 2014 passage of Amendment 64 to the state constitution legalized recreational marijuana use. According to a 2013 report by the New York City Comptroller’s office, more than 100,000 New York City residents with chronic and severe pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other conditions could benefit from Cuomo’s action.

While Governor Cuomo’s plan does not currently provide information on when or how medical marijuana will be made available to patients, his decision has drawn the attention of advocates for both legalized marijuana use and legal reform. Cuomo has previously shared a skeptical view of medical marijuana with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who described its efficacy as “one of the greatest hoaxes of all time.” However, Cuomo’s newfound stance is one of several recent campaigns to reach a broader demographic of his political base, including same-sex marriage in 2011 and tougher gun-control laws in the wake of the Newton, CT shootings. While detractors have decried the governor’s decision as an attempt to shore up voters in an election year, his position is in line with popular opinion at both the state and national level, which calls for reform of New York’s notoriously tough marijuana laws and overwhelmingly supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.