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.
In January, Gov. Cuomo finally joined the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who believe medical cannabis should be available to the seriously ill. Initially, he proposed reviving a very limited 1980 clinical trial law, which would not work due to archaic federal policies. Then, in the last week of the legislative session, he made several demands for revisions to the Compassionate Care Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino. A summary of the new law is available here.
Many thanks to all the patients, loved ones, legislators, supporters, donors, and organizations — including Compassionate Care New York and the Drug Policy Alliance — whose tireless work made this day possible. This important step forward to allow medical marijuana in New York 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.