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.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will hold a series of “listening sessions” to gather input on marijuana legalization from community members and stakeholders. Input will assist in drafting legislation to tax and regulate marijuana for adults’ use.
If you’re a New York resident, don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard. Sign up to attend a listening session here.
Fifteen listening sessions will be carried out throughout the state in the following locations: Albany, Glens Falls, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island, Newburgh, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Watertown. The first listening session is scheduled for Wednesday, September 5 in Albany. Find the full list of listening sessions here.
You can find resources on marijuana regulation and legalization on our legalization issues page, including reasons to legalize marijuana, background on how legalization is working in Washington and Colorado, and data showing teen marijuana use hasn’t increased after legalization.
It’s vital that lawmakers and the governor hear that their constituents want to replace marijuana prohibition with thoughtful regulation. Please spread the word, and voice your support!
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.
We’ve known for years that marijuana laws disproportionately harm people of color, but the results of a recent New York Times investigation are still shocking. According to the report:
- Black New York City residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites; Hispanic residents are five times more likely.
- During the first three months of this year, 89% of the 4,000 marijuana arrests in New York City were Black or Hispanic.
It doesn’t make sense to arrest an adult for possessing or consuming marijuana, but the racial disparities in these arrest rates make the injustice of marijuana prohibition even more intolerable.
The situation in New York City is so morally indefensible that the Manhattan district attorney announced his office will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is directing police to stop arresting people for public consumption of marijuana.
Those are positive steps, but the solution is to repeal the destructive policy of marijuana prohibition.
New York has recently been making significant progress on expanding its overly restrictive medical marijuana program, but many patients are still left out due to the state’s limited list of qualifying conditions. Please ask your state lawmakers to support bills that would address this problem. These bills are:
A08904 / S07755 — eliminates the list of qualifying conditions and instead allows a medical professional to recommend medical cannabis for any “severe debilitating or life-threatening condition, or symptom or complication or its treatment”
A09016 / S07564 — adds opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition
A00582 — adds dysmenorrhea (pain related to menstrual cramps) as a qualifying condition
A09869 — adds autism as a qualifying condition
While adding qualifying conditions is certainly helpful (which is why MPP led an effort last year that resulted in the addition of PTSD), eliminating the list and allowing medical professionals to recommend cannabis for any serious condition is even better. If you are a New York resident, please ask your lawmakers to respect the practitioner/patient relationship.
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.
As MPP's role in national and state marijuana policy reform efforts continues to grow and evolve, our leadership structure must also evolve. As such, MPP founder Rob Kampia is stepping down as executive director and will be assuming a new role in the organization.
We would like to thank Rob for his leadership and his continued work to end marijuana prohibition. Rob released the following statement:
I am excited to announce that I will be transitioning to the new position of director of strategic development with the Marijuana Policy Project.
Matthew Schweich, who joined MPP as the director of state campaigns in early 2015, will serve as interim executive director as the organization searches for a permanent executive director.
Back in 1993, I moved to D.C. three days after graduating from Penn State for the sole purpose of legalizing marijuana. Fully 19 years later, in 2012, MPP stunned the world by legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and in the four years since then, MPP legalized marijuana in four more states, being responsible overall for five of the eight states’ legalization laws.
When I co-founded MPP in 1995, medical marijuana was illegal in all 50 states, and it had been a decade since a good marijuana bill was even pending in Congress. Since 1995, MPP has passed half of the 29 states’ medical marijuana laws, and MPP was the lead organization that successfully lobbied Congress in 2014 to block the Justice Department from interfering with those state laws, and that amendment from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is still the law nationwide.
I’m looking forward to spending more time on Capitol Hill to help craft and pass the best possible legalization law nationally. I also want to focus on legalizing marijuana in three of the 10 most populous states – Texas, New York, and Michigan.
Just yesterday, our Michigan campaign submitted a sufficient number of signatures to that state government, virtually guaranteeing that Michigan will be the only state to vote in November 2018 on a statewide ballot measure to legalize marijuana.
I'm honored to have served as executive director, I'm excited the board chose the person I nominated to serve as interim executive director, and I'm energized to help identify a new executive director to finish the job of ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S.
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.