New York’s legislators attempt medical marijuana fix


Last update: May 2, 2016


On January 7, 2016, after a year and a half wait, New York’s first eight dispensaries finally opened. While this was an important step forward, there are still several problems — marijuana can only be recommended by registered doctors who have taken a costly 4.5 hour course on medical cannabis, and only 2,875 patients — or 0.01% of New Yorkers — have registered as of April 18.  The law falls short in several other areas as well — it leaves out several serious conditions, will not allow patients to smoke cannabis, and allows very few producers and dispensaries. Finally, while the health commissioner has the authority to approve additional conditions, he refused to add PTSD despite compelling evidence that medical cannabis can help and has far fewer side effects than the cocktail of drugs usually prescribed.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senators Gustavo Rivera and Diane Savino have each introduced several bills that would improve the medical marijuana program. These are: SB 7249, SB 7250, SB 7251, SB 6998, SB 6999, SB 7000, SB 7042, A 7476, AB 9151, AB 9507, AB 9510, AB 9514, AB 9517, AB 9553, AB 9562, and AB 9747. Click here to ask your legislators to support improvements to the medical program.

More work to be done on compliance 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 the law has been widely abused by police officers, who have ordered tens of thousands of people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets, often as part of an improper “stop and frisk” of people not suspected of any crime. Once the marijuana is in public view, the person can be arrested.

In November 2014, Mayor Bill DeBlasio ordered the New York Police Department to stop arresting people for marijuana possession and instead issue civil citations. Unfortunately, 16,500 people were still arrested last year for marijuana possession in New York City, and over 90% of them were black or Latino. Several bills have been introduced to address this problem, including AB 6218 and SB 137, which would make the public view exception applicable only where the marijuana is burning, and AB 3744 and SB 2049, which eliminate the public view exception entirely.

In addition, 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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Pending Legislation