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.