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NY Governor to Establish Medical Marijuana Program by Executive Action

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #816)
Drug War Issues

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will use his State of the State address Wednesday to announce he will sign an executive order to allow the limited use of marijuana, the New York Times reported Saturday. The move comes as the state legislature is set to debate pending medical marijuana legislation in Albany.

Andrew Cuomo
The executive order will cite a 1980 law that allows for the use of controlled substances to treat serious illnesses. The narrowly-tailored program will allow only 20 hospitals statewide to provide marijuana to patients suffering from a short list of specified conditions. The Department of Health, in consultation with experts, will be charged with drafting regulations for the program.

Under that 1980 law, a little-known bit of New York medical marijuana history occurred. The state Department of Health study conducted a large scale clinical trial using NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes to study the effectiveness of inhaled marijuana in preventing nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. That study found that marijuana was as effective or more effective than standard anti-emetics 93% of the time.

The move is a departure for Gov. Cuomo, who has previously expressed opposition to medical marijuana. The governor's apparent change of heart on the issue could spur the state Senate, which has yet to even hold a hearing on the pending bill, to finally act.

The move is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, said advocates.

"We thank the governor for his leadership and for taking action on behalf of some suffering patients in New York," said Gabriel Sayegh, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "With the Senate failing to act, patients have been left to suffer. The governor is doing everything he can within his executive power to help alleviate the suffering of some patients, without having to wait on the Senate."

But, Sayegh noted, a 34-year-old law may not be sufficient to address issues around medical marijuana, and that means the legislature isn't off the hook.

"The legislature still needs to act," he said. "Comprehensive medical marijuana legislation has long languished in Albany. The Assembly has on four occasions passed the Compassionate Care Act, but the Senate has failed to take action or even hold a hearing on the issue. The logjam in the Republican-controlled State Senate has made New York the only state in the Northeast without a medical marijuana program -- so New Yorkers continue to suffer while residents in neighboring states can gain much-needed relief. That's not acceptable."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Matt B (not verified)

I hope to be able to congratulate those in New York who are in medical need of cannabis. This is but one tiny step forward.

Cuomo has a history of talking big, then getting wishy-washy on the subject. Supposedly he's an advocate of decriminalization, but obviously he doesn't plan to make much noise in that area lately. Couldn't he have issued an executive order eliminating cannabis arrests from "stop and frisk"?

This looks like big government liberalism trying to convince people they're progressive enough -- that we should have a limited and red-tape ridden MMJ program, and only decriminalization so that the nanny government can still be up your arse and take your assets.

Let's just hope that the MMJ program is implemented and efficiently run. Then I may change my tune.

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:59pm Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

It's hard not to be skeptical given so many decades of reefer madness, and it ain't over quite yet. But consider this: pandering, wishy washy politicians who support marijuana reform publicly aren't acting out of principle, that tells you we've gained the upper hand, they're sucking up to us now!
Wed, 01/08/2014 - 1:27pm Permalink

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