New York state, having previously distinguished itself as creating one of the most tightly regulated and ineffective medical marijuana programs in the country, took a 180 on Wednesday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a surprise decision to sign two bills, according to The New York Times. This legislature was intended to forge an “emergency medical marijuana” program to get medical cannabis to patients in dire need two months ahead of the planned initiation of New York’s MMJ program.
The governor had been reluctant to expedite the process after approving the state’s Compassionate Care Act in 2014. That bill allowed for up to 20 locations in the state where a small number of patients afflicted with serious, chronic conditions could obtain non-smokable forms of cannabis.
After rounds of criticism and protest against the tight regulation, the governor surprised many by changing his mind regarding quick access to MMJ. In a statement, he expressed that he is “deeply sympathized with New Yorkers suffering from serious illness, and I appreciate that medical marijuana may alleviate their chronic pain and debilitating symptoms.”
The new bills will create a new program for medical cannabis in New York, separate from the one approved in 2014 and supervised by the State Health Department to “create an expedited pathway” for New York residents with serious conditions that can be treated by CBD or THC. Among the illnesses that will be treated by the new program are terminal cancer, childhood epilepsy, and AIDS.
What the new program won’t do differently is add plain old smokable cannabis to the list of legal medical products. Only extracts, for some reason, will be issued by the state’s dispensaries.
Despite the state’s still-limited dispensary sights and legal cannabis products, the new program will hopefully benefit some patients in need. Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan who has been in favor of quickening access to MMJ, praised the governor’s move to sign the bills, telling Times that governor’s decision could have meant the difference between life and death for some patients and had “done a very good deed.”
Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, had pressed for a quicker timetable for the drug program. On Wednesday, he praised the governor, saying that a matter of days can be a matter of life or death for seriously ill patients.
“Governor Cuomo,” the assemblyman said in a statement, “has done a very good deed.”