New York is set to become the 23rd state to adopt medical marijuana, but just barely. On Friday both chambers of the New York legislature easily passed the new compromise bill sending it to Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who has promised to sign it.
The bill will give Minnesota stiff competition for the title of the most restrictive actual medical marijuana program in the country.
Only people with a limited number of specific medical conditions will be able to register for the program with a doctor’s recommendation. Patients will only be able to get medical marijuana from a limited number of highly regulated centers throughout the state.
Under the legislation, patients will not be able to actually smoke marijuana. They will only be able to consume their medicine orally or with a vaporizer.
New criminal penalties will be created for people abusing the system. For example, it will be a misdemeanor for a patient to sell, trade or simply retain medical marijuana beyond what is needed for treatment.
In addition the law will not be permanent. It will automatically sunset in seven years if not renewed by the legislature, and at any time the governor can suspend the program based on the recommendations of the state health commissioner or state police superintendent.
The excessive restrictions placed on the program may seem ridiculous in light of the fact 83 percent of New Yorkers back medical marijuana and 51 percent would actually support legalizing recreational marijuana, yet these regulations were necessary to get Governor Cuomo to finally support it.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Pat Arnow [modified] under Creative Commons license