Medical Marijuana Finally Legalized In New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just signed a bill that legalizes the use of medical marijuana in New York. Although Gov. Cuomo stated that it would take 18 months to put into action, it seems to be on the fast track to implementation. New York now joins twenty-two other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The bill was passed by the State Assembly and Senate in June and Gov. Cuomo signed it into law this Saturday. He also held a formal signing ceremony on Monday to inform the public.

On Monday, Cuomo publicly stated, “There is no doubt that medical marijuana can help people…We are here to help people. And if there is a medical advancement, then we want to make sure that we’re bringing it to New Yorkers.”

According to the bill, in order to be eligible for treatment by medical marijuana, the patient must receive certification from a healthcare practitioner and must have a “debilitating or life-threatening illness for which marijuana is likely to have a therapeutic or palliative effect.”

For patients too sick to obtain the marijuana themselves, a caregiver may be designated to help them obtain the medical marijuana. The caregiver must be at least 21 years of age, must receive a registry card from the Department of Health, and cannot be a caregiver to more than five patients.

The bill was designed to have strict controls over the usage of medical marijuana so that it would not be misused or put in the wrong hands. Medical marijuana must be ingested with a vaporizer or oil base and cannot be smoked. Gov. Cuomo hopes that this condition will keep medical marijuana from being misused as a recreational drug.

Medical marijuana could alleviate the pain of hundreds of debilitated patients, including 9-year-old Amanda Houser who spoke at the ceremony on Monday. Amanda suffers several seizures every day due to a form of epilepsy. Medical marijuana could save her life in a way traditional medicine could not.

Unfortunately, most of the marijuana would have to come from street pot seized from criminals.

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Richard Gottfried tells CNN in an interview:

“The health department would have to have a laboratory analyze it as to its strength to make sure it doesn’t have insecticides in it or other problems. And that’s expensive and labor intensive.”

Gottfried is pushing to license and regulate the different strains of marijuana so that patients could receive medical marijuana suitable for their particular illness.

[Image via Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office]