Governor Cuomo is expected to announce medical marijuana leniency in New York state, where some of the most restrictive drug laws in the country have remained for decades. The New York Times reported that the change is likely to be announced during Wednesday’s State of the State address. With recent legalization in Colorado and Washington, citizens are reminded that any changes are likely to be very minor, although they will be relatively large compared to the long-standing heavy drug punishments in the state. It is said that Democrat Cuomo will use his administrative powers to side step the Albany senate, which is primarily Republican and has struck down several past medical marijuana propositions.
In the face of 82 percent approval of limited medical marijuana from New York state citizens, the expected changes are a breath of fresh air. Cuomo’s changes are likely to follow a carefully structured law that will allow just 20 hospitals in the entire state to prescribe small amounts of marijuana to patients suffering from conditions on a very short list that have been shown to respond to THC treatments. These include and are likely limited to glaucoma, cancer and a few other chronic conditions.
The New York State Health Department will be in charge of creating the list and it will most likely be presented along with the proposed changes at the State Address scheduled for Wednesday. With Cuomo expected to announce medical marijuana leniency in New York State, any changes are set to be the latest in several small amendments to the states historic Rockefeller drug laws, which were responsible for putting over 75,000 people behind bars since 1973. The minimum charge for selling as little as 2 ounces of marijuana, cocaine or heroin until the laws were repealed in 2009 was 15 years in prison and simply possessing 4 ounces of those drugs was likely to end in a life sentence. Since the laws were scaled back inmate populations have fallen below 55,000 and several prisons have been closed.
Cuomo is being praised for this innovative and bold decision to help those suffering from afflictions which don’t respond to traditional forms of medicine. But with the praise comes concerns over other facets of decriminalization, such as handling high drivers or possession by minors. Despite these worries, with Cuomo expected to announce medical marijuana leniency in New York state, the overall effect is expected to be positive. There may be some hitches to work out, but recreational legalization and easy access demonstrated in other states has not resulted in a disaster, so there is no reason to expect one if New York becomes the 21st state to decriminalize marijuana.
Cuomo has historically opposed medical marijuana and his change of heart is thought to be connected to the success of changes in the laws of other states. As well, a small medical marijuana program was recently enacted in neighboring New Jersey. While the results of the upcoming changes are anyone’s guess, few are expecting them to go up in smoke. Look for the Wednesday State of Address regarding Cuomo’s announcement and the regulations loosening, slightly on medical marijuana.
By Daniel O’Brien