|New York State Is Set To Loosen Marijuana Laws|
Posted by CN Staff on January 04, 2014 at 14:56:20 PT|
By Susanne Craig and Jesse McKinley
Source: New York Times
Albany -- Joining a growing group of states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York plans this week to announce an executive action that would allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses, state officials say.
The turnabout by Mr. Cuomo, who had long resisted legalizing medical marijuana, comes as other states are taking increasingly liberal positions on it — most notably Colorado, where thousands have flocked to buy the drug for recreational use since it became legal on Jan. 1.
Mr. Cuomo’s plan will be far more restrictive than the laws in Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions as mild as backaches. It will allow just 20 hospitals across the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma or other diseases that meet standards to be set by the New York State Department of Health.
While Mr. Cuomo’s measure falls well short of full legalization, it nonetheless moves New York, long one of the nation’s most punitive states for those caught using or dealing drugs, a significant step closer to policies being embraced by marijuana advocates and lawmakers elsewhere.
New York hopes to have the infrastructure in place this year to begin dispensing medical marijuana, although it is too soon to say when it will actually be available to patients.
Mr. Cuomo’s change of heart comes at an interesting political juncture. In neighboring New Jersey, led by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican whose presidential prospects are talked about even more often than Mr. Cuomo’s, medical marijuana was approved by his predecessor, Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, but implemented only after Mr. Christie put in place rules limiting its strength, banning home delivery, and requiring patients to show they have exhausted conventional treatments. The first of six planned dispensaries has already opened.
Meanwhile, New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, had quickly seemed to overshadow Mr. Cuomo as the state’s leading progressive politician.
For Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has often found common ground with Republicans on fiscal issues, the sudden shift on marijuana — which he will announce on Wednesday in his annual State of the State address — was the latest of several instances in which he has embarked on a major social policy effort sure to bolster his popularity with a large portion of his political base.
In 2011, he successfully championed the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. And a year ago, in the aftermath of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Cuomo pushed through legislation giving New York some of the nation’s toughest gun-control laws, including a strict ban on assault weapons. He also has pushed, unsuccessfully so far, to strengthen abortion rights in state law.
The governor’s action also comes as advocates for changing drug laws have stepped up criticism of New York City’s stringent enforcement of marijuana laws, which resulted in nearly 450,000 misdemeanor charges between 2002 and 2012, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates more liberal drug laws.
During that same period, medical marijuana became increasingly widespread outside New York, with some 20 states and the District of Columbia now allowing its use.
Mr. Cuomo voiced support for changing drug laws as recently as the 2013 legislative session, when he backed an initiative to decriminalize so-called open view possession of 15 grams or less. And though he said he remained opposed to medical marijuana, he indicated as late as April that he was keeping an open mind.
His about-face, according to a person briefed on the governor’s views but not authorized to speak on the record, was rooted in his belief that the program he has drawn up can help those in need, while limiting the potential for abuse. Given Mr. Cuomo’s long-held concerns, this person said, he insisted that it be a test program so he can monitor its impact.
But Mr. Cuomo is also up for election this year, and polls have shown overwhelming support for medical marijuana in New York: 82 percent of New York voters approved of the idea in a survey by Siena College last May.
In taking the matter into his own hands, the governor is relying on a provision in the public health law known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program. It allows for the use of controlled substances for “cancer patients, glaucoma patients, and patients afflicted with other diseases as such diseases are approved by the commissioner.”
Mr. Olivieri was a New York City councilman and state assemblyman who died in 1980 at age 39. Suffering from a brain tumor, he used marijuana to overcome some of the discomfort of chemotherapy, and until his death lobbied for state legislation to legalize its medical use.
The provision, while unfamiliar to most people, had been hiding in plain sight since 1980.
But with Mr. Cuomo still publicly opposed to medical marijuana, state lawmakers had been pressing ahead with new legislation that would go beyond the Olivieri statute.
Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who leads the assembly’s health committee, has held two public hearings on medical marijuana in recent weeks, hoping to build support for a bill under which health care professionals licensed to prescribe controlled substances could certify patient need.
Mr. Gottfried said the state’s historical recalcitrance on marijuana was surprising.
“New York is progressive on a great many issues, but not everything,” he said.
Mr. Gottfried said he wanted a tightly regulated and licensed market, with eligible patients limited to those with “severe, life-threatening or debilitating conditions,” not the broader range of ailments — backaches and anxiety, for instance — that pass muster in places like California, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996.
“What we are looking at bears no resemblance to the California system,” Mr. Gottfried said.
While he was aware of the Olivieri statute, he believed it had not been implemented because it would have required “an elaborate administrative approval process,” which he said could be overly burdensome on patients.
Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, praised Mr. Cuomo’s decision as “a bold and innovative way of breaking the logjam” in Albany, though it may not be the final word on medical marijuana.
Mr. Cuomo “remains committed to developing the best medical marijuana law in the country,” Mr. Nadelmann said. “And that’s going to require legislative action.”
The administration has much work to do before its program is operational: For starters, it must select the participating hospitals, which officials said would be chosen to assure “regional diversity” and according to how extensively they treat patients with or research pertinent illnesses like cancer or glaucoma.
Another hurdle: State and federal laws prohibit growing marijuana, even for medical uses, though the Obama administration has tolerated it. So New York will have to find an alternative supply of cannabis. The likely sources could include the federal government or law enforcement agencies, officials said.
Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.
Source: New York Times (NY)
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|Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 05, 2014 at 19:24:55 PT|
|I think a lot like you. I think politicians will have to pay attention or not win when up for re-election. They better educate themselves because we see through them very easily anymore and they know it now. Game playing doesn't make it. We are not dumb.|
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Comment #7 posted by Ray Walker on January 05, 2014 at 17:57:35 PT:|
Bloomberg leaving is a good thing. Maybe DeBlasio can rectify some of the injustice Bloomberg fostered. I know when a mayor manages to anger this many people, he's doing something wrong. Mostly his job evidently. A mayor's job is to find a way to promote and institute the choices that the citizens have reguardles of the mayors bias or taste. If the citizens are divided 50/50 on something that's a personal choice and in no way inflicts hardship to another citizen if allowed, then it should be allowed. It could be a lollipop preferences(red, yellow), same sex marriage(gay,straight,?), medical choices(prozac,cannabis,herbal tea,prayer). If a person in their privacy enjoys consuming cannabis and having a red lollipop after an earth shattering heterosexual encounter, what harm could this possibly have on another citizen? By the way I hate herbal teas(yuuk). Personally I think all these things are a private and personal choice, but this country is years from that idea.|
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|Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on January 05, 2014 at 17:08:04 PT|
|people are using cannabis for things as mild as backaches! |
only the NY Times would consider a backache "mild". Of course, a sore back is an ailment of the working classes, not elitist investor-class families.
Many thousands of people die each year in the US from taking NSAID meds (Advil) and Tylenol.
What gives anyone the right to tell someone else their pain is "mild". This has nothing to do with pain. That's what the cannabis issues has ALWAYS been about - controlling other people. Especially lower-class people.
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|Comment #5 posted by FoM on January 05, 2014 at 14:06:52 PT|
|I am proud to be a Progressive Democrat and I don't like Governor Cuomo. He is easy to see through. I am hopeful for New York City since Bloomberg is gone and Mayor DiBlasio a Democrat is in charge.|
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Comment #4 posted by Ray Walker on January 05, 2014 at 12:13:34 PT:|
|Mr. Cuomo is doing the same old song and dance on this issue. The controlled restrictions to the medical cannabis program he's speaking of are just a way for him to gain reelection. He knows this is a serious subject to the people and he also knows that if he outright denounces or promotes medical cannabis he'll split his base. He also knows that the ballot initiatives and referendums process in New York could play a huge part against his agenda. Someone should ask him pick one side or the other on the subject. Ask him how much federal funding the state stands to loose if cannabis becomes legal. The city of New York is the largest site of constitutional rights violations in years with its "federally incentivized stop and frisk" program. Knowing this do you guys really think he's going to just roll over. If he's changing positions on the issue then he needs to state it in public, on camera, and in writing. Cannabis advocacy organizations like NORML and MPP are the kind of support that you need. Educate yourself about what type of power you have. It is important that you know you have a powerful voice. Its called a VOTE.|
Initiatives and Referendums are powerful tools. These types of power were NOT just handed to you by the Constitution. They were create at a time when the country was being overrun by the greedy rich. Its called Direct Democracy. It gives you power to maintain freedom from tyranny. Use it
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|Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 04, 2014 at 17:19:23 PT|
|I agree with you but New York is such an important and big state it is a beginning. I wonder what the new Democrat that is Mayor of NYC will do.|
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|Comment #2 posted by The GCW on January 04, 2014 at 15:33:51 PT|
|Loosen? That's cheap talk.|
Not good enough. The job isn't done till the superplant is RE-legalized.
Colorado and Washington set the bar high.
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|Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 04, 2014 at 14:57:41 PT|
|We are making progress.|
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