New York’s medical marijuana program restrictive, slow to commence


Last update: November 12, 2015


On July 5, 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law, which included several revisions he insisted upon. After 18 years of work, led by tireless Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, New York became the 23rd state with an effective medical marijuana law. The program is supposed to be operational once the Commissioner of Health and the Superintendent of State Police have certified that it can be implemented in accordance with public health and safety interests — and not before January 5, 2016. The health department’s FAQ on the program is available here.

While it’s an important step forward, the law falls short in several areas — it leaves out several serious conditions, will not allow patients to smoke cannabis, and allows very few producers and dispensaries. In early spring 2015, the Department of Health issued regulations to implement the law, which Assemblyman Gottfried explained were needlessly restrictive and “gratuitously cruel.” In October, the Department of Health made mandatory online training available to physicians who will recommend marijuana to patients.

One of the initial law’s flaws was partially remedied on November 11, 2015, when Gov. Cuomo signed a bill allowing expedited access to marijuana for some patients. However, patients still lack legal protections, and it remains unlikely that medical marijuana will be available to any patients before January.

Many thanks to all the patients, loved ones, legislators, supporters, donors, and organizations — including Compassionate Care New York — whose tireless work led to the enactment of New York’s medical marijuana law and who continue to work to improve the program.

New York City to finally comply with 1977 decrim


New York was one of the first states in the nation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Unfortunately, in recent years, the “public view” exception to New York’s 1977 decriminalization law has been widely abused by police officers. New York City police have told tens of thousands of people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets — thus making them criminals once their marijuana was in public view.

Finally, however, the tide is turning. Last July, Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson announced his office would stop prosecuting low-level marijuana possession cases. In November 2014, Mayor Bill DeBlasio followed suit, ordering the New York Police Department to stop arresting people for marijuana possession and instead issue civil citations. This will finally bring the city police in line with state law since 1977.

Still, Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes have proposed a more comprehensive fix to New York’s unfair and wasteful marijuana laws — legalizing marijuana for adults and regulating it like alcohol. Let your legislators know it’s time to stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

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