On Monday, September 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that adds acute pain management to the list of approved conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid use. This new law formalizes regulations the New York State Department of Health issued in July, which added opioid replacement and opioid use disorder to the list.
This is great news for patients! Access to medical marijuana is no longer limited to those suffering from chronic pain. This bill and regulations allow more patients who could benefit from medical marijuana a safe and effective alternative to highly addictive opioids.
Find more information on New York’s medical marijuana program, including the list of qualifying conditions and how to register, here.
The Health Commissioner of New York, Howard Zucker, recently announced that a long-awaited study by the Cuomo administration will recommend the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use. The study is believed to be at least partly in response to gubernatorial primary candidate Cynthia Nixon’s strong support of marijuana legalization.
Mr. Zucker also announced that the Health Department will issue regulations to allow patients who have been prescribed opioids to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. Not all patients can qualify under the existing chronic pain provision, since opioids may also be prescribed for severe but short-term pain, such as after surgery. The New York Senate also passed a bill to do the same, as well as to allow patients with opioid use disorder to qualify.
While the state’s legislative session is ending soon, New York is moving closer to ending marijuana prohibition!
In other news, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, under increasing pressure to address the racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests, announced a new policy designed to reduce arrests and give more tickets instead. Unfortunately, the policy, which will take effect September 1, has so many exceptions its impact may be limited.
This proposal is a change from the governor’s past views on the topic; he previously said he was opposed to legalization, citing the now-debunked “gateway theory” as the reason. In fact, marijuana is simply a gateway to the criminal justice system and the lifetime of collateral consequences that come with a conviction.
While this is encouraging news, a study commission is only as good as the experts who serve on it. Please help us ensure that the commission includes experts in public health, marijuana policy, and criminal justice reform as well as the law enforcement officers Gov. Cuomo mentioned would be on it.
A bipartisan bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for New York’s medical marijuana program was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during Veterans Day weekend. The Senate passed S 5629 in June (50-13), and the Assembly version, A 7006, received overwhelming approval in May (131-8). New York is the 28th state to allow medical marijuana to be used to treat PTSD.
“Gov. Cuomo should be applauded for helping thousands of New York veterans find relief with medical marijuana,” said Bob Becker, Legislative Director for the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations. “PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering.”
Thank you to all of our supporters who joined our efforts by contacting your elected officials. It is because of your dedication we were able to get the PTSD bill signed in New York.
On Tuesday, the New York Senate took an important step toward improving the state’s medical marijuana program by passing S 5629, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. The Assembly had already overwhelmingly passed an identical bill, A 7006. The bills now head to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
MPP's Kate Bell said the following in a press release:
“State lawmakers are standing up for thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering from PTSD and might benefit from medical marijuana,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We hope Gov. Cuomo will do the same and sign this important legislation. With a single swipe of his pen, he can help countless people find relief.”
Gov. Cuomo has not yet indicated if he’s supportive. If you are a New York resident, please call him now at (518) 474-8390, and politely ask him to make this important treatment option available to patients! To make it easy, we have a sample script available here. You can also click here to send an email in support.
There are only two drugs that are FDA-approved to treat PTSD, and neither has been shown to be more effective than a placebo. Both of these drugs, and others commonly prescribed “off-label,” have dangerous side effects that cannabis does not. Many veterans suffer from PTSD, which is why the State Council of Veterans’ Organizations has come out in support of this bill. Shouldn't those who have served our country and others who have survived trauma have access to any treatment that might help ease their suffering?
Please ask Gov. Cuomo to allow New York to join the other 26 states — of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs — that include PTSD as a qualifying condition by signing this legislation.
Bills to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults have been introduced in both the New York Senate and the Assembly. The bills — S3040 and A3506 — would allow adults 18 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants. They also set up a regulatory system for businesses to cultivate, process, and sell cannabis to adults 21 and up.
Other bills have been introduced to fix New York’s flawed decriminalization law, under which thousands of people — mostly young people of color — have been forced by police to empty their pockets and have then been arrested for having marijuana in public view. While these would be positive steps, a more comprehensive reform would do more to end arrests for low-level marijuana offenses. It would also improve public safety by taking marijuana out of the criminal market.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently acknowledged that “Individuals can miss work, be fired, [and] establish a record that prevents them from finding work in the future,” because of a marijuana arrest. If you are a New York resident, please tell your legislators that New Yorkers shouldn’t have their futures hamstrung because they choose to use a substance safer than alcohol.
On Friday, New York’s Department of Health awarded five organizations licenses allowing them to produce and dispense medical marijuana. Each of the five businesses will be allowed to operate up to four dispensaries within the state and must be doing business within six months.
The companies awarded licenses are Bloomfield Industries Inc., Columbia Care NY, Empire State Health Solutions, Etain, and PharmaCann. They plan to operate dispensaries that will serve only parts of the eastern portion of the state, with the exception of Monroe County, where Columbia Care NY plans to operate a dispensary. The Department of Health selected these five companies out of 43 applicants.
The Compassionate Care Act was signed last summer by Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he insisted on revisions that made the program among the most restrictive. Patients may neither smoke marijuana nor cultivate it at home, and several important conditions have been left out of the law. In addition, the number of registered organizations is extremely limited and will force some patients to travel long distances to get their medicine. Patients are in need of medical marijuana and continue to wait for access, but by January, eligible New Yorkers should finally have some legal in-state options for treatment.
Nearly a year ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a medical cannabis bill into law after insisting on significant revisions. As a result, patients with several serious medical conditions were excluded and protections for patients waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn were removed. At least four children who could have benefitted from medical cannabis have died since the bill became law, and no patients have received access to cannabis.
If you are a New York resident, please call Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to ask him to call a vote on S.5086 (sponsored by Sen. Griffo), which would expedite access for certain seriously ill patients.
The Assembly has already passed this important bill in a 130-18 vote! But if the Senate does not act this week, patients will be left in the lurch for many more months.
The Department of Health is moving forward slowly with implementation. Forty-three dispensary applications were filed last week. Experiences in other states indicate it could be a year or longer before the first patient obtains medical cannabis from a state-licensed provider in New York. But others — such as Minnesota — have shown that health departments can move far more quickly when they are required to do so.
On Saturday, July 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law, making New York the 23rd state with an effective medical marijuana law. The law goes into effect immediately, although patients are not expected to have legal protections or safe access to medical marijuana until 2016.
The law’s passage is the product of many years of work by legislative champions, led by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, and, more recently, Sen. Diane Savino, patients, their loved ones, and advocacy organizations, including MPP and Compassionate Care NY. Thanks to each and every one of you who made this law possible.
While there are many reasons to rejoice, the law is unfortunately much more limited than what was introduced, largely due to amendments Gov. Cuomo insisted upon. Many seriously ill patients will be left behind, at least initially.
Only patients with one of 10 serious conditions will qualify, although the health department is allowed to add qualifying conditions. The law allows far too few dispensaries by providing for no more than five growers, with up to four dispensing locations each. Patients will not be able to smoke cannabis. A summary of the new law is available here.
While this is a vital step forward, the work to ensure that all seriously ill patients who can benefit from medical cannabis have reasonable access to it is not done. Stay tuned for updates on how you can help improve New York’s new medical marijuana program.
Last Friday, after days of intense negotiation and more than a decade of advocacy, the Assembly and Senate voted to approve a limited medical marijuana program. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already agreed to sign this bill, which includes several revisions he insisted upon. Finally, New York will be the 23rd state with an effective medical marijuana law.
Click here for a summary of the Compassionate Care Act.
Access to medical marijuana literally means the difference between life and death for many seriously ill patients. While this new law represents a hard-fought victory and a long overdue step forward for New York, the bill is far from perfect. Unfortunately, due to the compromises with the governor’s office, many patients will still be left behind. But, together with our local allies, including the Drug Policy Alliance and Compassionate Care NY, who led recent lobbying efforts in the state, we will not give up on improving the law.