New organization, MPP-NY, launches to improve New York’s marijuana policies!
Last update: October 30, 2017
In September 2017, a new nonprofit organization — Marijuana Policy Project of New York — launched to work on improving New York’s marijuana policies. MPP-NY is an affiliate of MPP but is a separate organization that will be focused exclusively on New York. Its first project is to improve and expand the state’s limited medical marijuana program.
Medical marijuana program keeps inching forward
New York’s medical marijuana program has been roundly criticized for being unduly restrictive and failing to provide meaningful access for patients. Thankfully, the Department of Health and the legislature have been taking significant steps to address some of the gaps. Most recently, the legislature passed an MPP Foundation-backed bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition — which 24 of the 29 medical marijuana states had already done. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must still sign the bill in order for it to become law; please urge him to do so.
The Department of Health also added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions, with some restrictions. This is particularly important because medical marijuana can help patients reduce their use of dangerous opioids. MPP and our supporters urged that the restrictions in the proposed rules be removed, and while the Department of Health declined to do so, it did clarify that patients need not try opioids prior to qualifying for medical cannabis.
But, many more improvements can still be made, such as easing onerous restrictions that make New York one of the most expensive places to purchase medical cannabis and encouraging more doctors to participate in the program.
New York still has not fixed its decrim law 40 years later
New York was one of the first states in the nation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana — in 1977. Yet, 40 years later there is still a giant loophole in the law, which has caused thousands more arrests, and all of the collateral consequences that come with them. The “public view” exception to the decriminalization law has been widely abused by police officers, who order people, mostly young people of color, to empty their pockets and then arrest them for possessing marijuana in public view. Over 18,000 people were still arrested for marijuana possession in 2016, in New York City alone.
Several bills were introduced during the 2017 legislative session that would have addressed this issue in some way, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his support for fixing this problem when he laid out his 2017 legislative priorities. Unfortunately, none of the proposals moved forward before the legislature adjourned for the year.
A more comprehensive fix to New York’s unfair and wasteful marijuana laws would be to legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol.