Marijuana Policy Project urges Gov. Cuomo and state legislators to adopt pending legislation that would actually allow people with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana
(ALBANY, N.Y.) Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce Wednesday during his State of the State address that he will be issuing an executive order to initiate the establishment of a medical marijuana program in New York. The proposal will likely be unworkable because it is expected to rely on federal agencies’ cooperation and/or hospitals violating federal law, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization. The State of the State address is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.
“We’re pleased to learn Gov. Cuomo is among the 77% of Americans who recognize the legitimate medical benefits of marijuana,” said MPP Director of State Policies Karen O’Keefe. “Unfortunately, his plan will not allow New Yorkers to access or use medical marijuana anytime soon.
“Twenty states and our nation’s capital have enacted laws that protect patients from arrest and provide them with a legal means of acquiring their medicine,” O’Keefe said. “If the governor and legislators agree that medical marijuana can help people battle serious illnesses, they can and should adopt a system that will actually allow them to use it.”
According to news reports, Gov. Cuomo intends to revive the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program, which allows some New York hospitals to distribute marijuana procured from the federal government to patients with certain medical conditions. The state program was established in 1980 to operate in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Investigational New Drug program, through which the National Institute on Drug Abuse distributed marijuana to a limited number of individuals suffering from medical conditions for which marijuana was believed to be a potentially effective treatment. If the state is unable to obtain marijuana from the federal government, it may search for other sources, such as confiscated marijuana.
The Marijuana Policy Project believes the program will likely be unworkable and problematic for the following reasons:
– The National Institute on Drug Abuse is the sole source of federally legal marijuana. Since the implementation of strict new guidelines in 1999, NIDA only provides marijuana for clinical studies that are approved by a review panel, and it has at times refused to provide marijuana even to short-term FDA-approved research on the medical benefits of marijuana. (NIDA still provides medical marijuana to four patients who were grandfathered into the FDA’s original Investigational New Drug program.)
– If the program used federal marijuana, the Food and Drug Administration would need to approve of the state’s research protocol. FDA-approved research projects are exceptionally expensive and require large sums of money for every additional human subject added to the program.
– The Drug Enforcement Administration, which has been a vehement opponent of medical marijuana legislation, would need to approve Schedule I licenses for the physicians who would be administering the program in the 20 participating hospitals. It would also need to oversee the handling of marijuana during every step of the process, which would likely include (but not be limited to) the storage of marijuana in locked facilities in 20 hospitals.
– The program would be administered by hospitals, which are federally regulated and typically unwilling to engage in activities that are illegal under federal law, such as distributing confiscated marijuana.
– The program would require an appropriation from the New York State Legislature, making it the first state medical marijuana law in which the state government loses significant funds.
Medical marijuana bills introduced last year by Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) would actually allow people with certain debilitating conditions to use and access medical marijuana. The Assembly has passed medical marijuana legislation four times, but modern, effective medical marijuana legislation has not been given a vote in the state Senate.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Eleven additional states, including New York, have ineffective medical marijuana laws on their books that originated in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.