Life is about to get a little bit easier for critically ill patients in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed 2 bills into law recently that will establish an “emergency medical marijuana” program individuals can use to resolve their ailments.
The passage of a 2014 law added New York to a list of nearly 2 dozen states where medical marijuana is available to patients. Today’s signing of the 2 bills accelerates how quickly critically ill patients are able to legally utilize cannabis, particularly those whose lack of access to the drug “would pose a serious risk” to their lives, such as people suffering from cancer or seizures.
Cuomo inked the bills just shy of a midnight deadline and came after patients, families, supporters and some celebrities had spent months pressuring the state’s government to take action to allow emergency access to medical marijuana. 
“We’ve been waiting an outrageous 15 months for expedited access to medical marijuana,” Missy Miller of Atlantic Beach, whose son Oliver suffers from life-threatening seizures, told Drug Policy Alliance.
Advocates were uncertain whether legal medical cannabis would become a reality in New York, as Gov. Cuomo initially said only that he would review the bill. He only embraced the 2014 Compassionate Care Act after insisting that the State Police and the Health Department would have extensive oversight of medical marijuana’s distribution. Under the law, 5 organizations may produce and distribute the drug through 20 dispensaries statewide, and the marijuana must be sold in New York.
The state’s full medical cannabis program is expected to be fully operational by January 2016.
“Patients in New York have waited long enough for legal access to medical cannabis,” said Roger Volodarsky, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based vaporizer technology company Puffco.
“It’s outrageous that they have been forced to go years without relief while politicians procrastinate, but this new law means that the day when those who need marijuana-based medicine will be able to safely obtain it from legal businesses will be here sooner rather than later,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo said that under the bills, the program will require more organizations for producing the drug as soon as feasible, and to waive the “tight controls” of the Compassionate Care Act, though he was not specific about what that meant. He also said that the program would give preference to organizations or groups producing cannabis in other states that might be able to provide the drug more quickly.
The Governor was quick to note that he still recognizes that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and asked that the new emergency program follow 2013 guidelines set by the U.S. Justice Department.