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 is now the 23rd state with an effective medical marijuana law.
Unfortunately, the compromise bill 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. However, the program represents tremendous progress and will provide safe access to medical marijuana for thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers, like Dr. Richard Carlton’s wife, who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease.
The governor has requested special permission from the federal government to import cannabis products to New York from Colorado, in order to provide emergency access to the state’s most seriously ill patients. Unfortunately, this request is unlikely to be successful. To expedite access, the governor should instead ensure that the state begins registering medical marijuana patients immediately to provide them with legal protection.
Many thanks to all the patients, loved ones, legislators, supporters, donors, and organizations whose tireless work led to the enactment of New York’s medical marijuana law and who continue to work to make sure that this important step forward will not be the last.
Earlier this year, Gov. Cuomo abandoned his push for more just marijuana penalties. Gov. Cuomo announced in January he will cease his pushto replace jail time with a civil fine for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
New York is one of the 19 states that penalize first-offense possession of a modest amount of marijuana with a fine instead of possible jail time (marijuana possession is legal in two other states and possession in one's home is allowed under Alaska's constitution). First-offense possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by a $100 civil citation, although first-offense possession of between 25 grams and two ounces carries a $500 fine and up to three months in jail.