BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Albany – Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York might soon allow patients with severe illnesses the legal right to use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, making it the 21st state to do so.
Cuomo is expected to announce his plans to revive a medical marijuana law from 1980 during his State of the State address on January 8.
The Antonio G. Oliveri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program, which was named after a State Assemblyman who used medical marijuana to alleviate pain stemming from a brain tumor before his death, permits the state to distribute marijuana to a limited number of hospitals.
Considering it would be illegal under federal law for law enforcement to give marijuana to the state and federal sources are equally unlikely to share, the source of medical marijuana has yet to be established.
However, once the marijuana is procured, it can be prescribed to patients with a range of illnesses. Though a definitive list of approved ailments has not been released, it is expected that New York will only allow medical marijuana for only serious illnesses such as cancer and glaucoma.
The law is expected to be much stricter than laws allowed by ballot items in Colorado and Washington, where voters chose to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. According to (?), the law might create the most heavily-regulated system for legal marijuana in the country.
In this sense, legalization in New York could mirror legalization in New Jersey, where medical marijuana is allowed for a similarly short list of severe illnesses which include terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, muscular dystrophy and Crohn’s disease.
Marijuana has proven to be a persistent but difficult issue in Albany. Though bills routinely pass through the Democrat-led State Assembly, Republicans controlling the State Senate have consistently blocked new legislation, including a Cuomo-supported measure which would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in “public view.”
Though Cuomo has shown some willingness to relax criminal penalties, he has also tread lightly on major reform, showing reluctance to approve any legislation on medical marijuana which might reach his desk.
However, Albany might be slow to recognize popular opinion on the matter. According to a poll conducted by Siena College, 82 percent of New Yorkers favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.