Legislators in New York closed last week on a high note, giving final approval to a bill that will allow limited access to medicinal marijuana, making them the 23rd state to approve a medical marijuana law. While the law is far from a free pass to smoke pot, it does mark a step in the right direction and will hopefully allow some residents relief from potentially debilitating diseases and illnesses.
The bill passed the state senate with a vote of 49-10 and the Assembly by 117-13 and marked a compromise between lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the bill will allow state-approved patients access to edible and vapor extracts of marijuana, it will not allow them to smoke it.
“Medical marijuana has significant upsides and significant potential downsides,” Cuomo told reporters according to CNN. “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.”
Cuomo has long resisted all efforts to legalize marijuana, but sees this one as a compromise between public safety and health needs. Under the program, Cuomo or a successor would have the power to put the brakes on the program at any time they deemed necessary.
“This bill is far from perfect,” said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. “But if implemented quickly and effectively, this program will help thousands of sick and suffering New Yorkers, who need help now.”
The State’s Health Department will determine how to implement the law and how the products will be formulated. The bill allows the department to license five private companies to produce and distribute the medical marijuana through dispensaries.
Ailments included under the law are: cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and neuropathies.
Patients over the age of 21 and authorized by a doctor may be eligible, but don’t think for a minute you’ll be able to find a pro-pot doctor who will authorize you sight unseen. The law mandates certification comes only from doctors allowed in a patient’s direct care.
Only one other state bars medical marijuana patients from smoking pot and that’s Minnesota. Under the New York law, patients will be allowed to use extracts in a vaporizer, however.