Towards the end of June 2014, all that is needed to make medical marijuana legal in New York is the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. When this happens–and all indications point to it being a certainty–the state will become the 23rd to pass legislation allowing the medical use of cannabis.
The move was bolstered by the passage of the “Compassionate Care Act” by the New York State Assembly late in June 2014. Sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino, the bill was later also passed by the state Senate.
Under the terns of the law, medical marijuana will be made available to patients that have certain diseases and health conditions according to a list released by the state. Although the list will be predefined, there is some degree of flexibility with regard to allowing medical marijuana for other conditions. The medication will be made available to patients in non-smokable form.
It may actually take up to 18 months before the law is implemented, although Gov. Cuomo has reaffirmed his support for legalization. Saying that medical cannabis has “significant upsides and significant potential downsides”, the governor nevertheless reiterated his commitment to making sure that people who need medication have access to it.
Sen. Savino for her part referred to the law as a “historic victory” for New York residents who will now have access to the same “life-changing” medications available to residents of other states around the country. State polls also show that legalization has widespread support among New York residents. This was confirmed by State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver in a statement released to the media.
Nevertheless, the state remains cautious about the planned legalization, implementing strict measures against individuals who may attempt to “defraud the system”. Gov. Cuomo also has the right to suspend the state’s medical marijuana program if the State Police Superintendent or the Commissioner of Health makes a recommend to that effect due to a perceived public health or safety risk.
With the passage of the law, New York joins 22 other states that have already legalized marijuana for medical use, among them the bordering states of Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey. These developments are only the latest in a long line of occurrences that have taken place over the past ten years, all of which have culminated in numerous states having legalized marijuana all over the United States.
Before New York residents voted to legalize marijuana in the state, residents who needed the medication have had to resort to black-market sources or go out-of-state to get the marijuana they needed. This was the case for Missy Miller of Long Island who was on the brink of moving to California in order for her son Oliver to have legal access to a marijuana extract called Charlotte’s Web oil. Oliver (now 14) has had to live with a debilitating brainstem injury since birth, which causes him to have several seizures a day. With the impending legalization of marijuana in New York, Oliver and other patients equally in need will have access to the medication that they need right in their home state.