Gov. Cuomo to allow New York hospitals to dispense medicinal marijuana

Courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice

During his fourth State of the State Address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to relax constraints on the use of medical marijuana in the state. Citing research on the benefits of the drug and the policies of the 20 other states that have legalized medical marijuana, Cuomo announced that his administration and the New York State Department of Health would enact a program called the Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program. The program will allow 20 hospitals throughout the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with serious illnesses such as cancer.

Details surrounding the plan are still unclear. According to the NYSDOH, a number of hospitals have expressed an interest in learning more about the program. The hospitals that will be allowed to prescribe marijuana and the criteria being used to select those hospitals are unknown. Additionally, the particular standards that will determine which patients are eligible for a prescription have not been announced.

The governor and the NYSDOH said the purpose of this initiative is to evaluate the effectiveness of medical marijuana and the feasibility of a fully established medical marijuana system, likely in anticipation of a future New York State legislative action.

Julie Netherland, deputy state director for the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that promotes drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights, expressed her approval of the governor’s decision.

“We were really pleased to see that the Governor came out and acknowledged the benefits and need for medical marijuana,” Netherland said.

The current plan is not the final step in the process. This plan relies on Cuomo’s executive power to implement parts of a 1980 law that was passed in and allows for research into the medical prospects of controlled substances, rather than on a current law dictating a specific policy for medical marijuana.

CAS freshman Maxwell Raderstorf, who is from Colorado where recreational marijuana has already been legalized, said marijuana should be legalized nationwide and restrictions should not be increased.

“All [the restriction] does is give more power to dealers and smugglers and drive people to come into contact with people like this, which can turn it into a gateway drug and lead people into trying more dangerous, harmful and addictive drugs,“ Raderstorf said.

Cuomo has previously opposed the use of medical marijuana, so his endorsement of the drug is encouraging to proponents of the drug’s medicinal properties. Some, however, still think more needs to be done.

“It’s a great step forward,” Netherland said. “Having said that, there is still a need for comprehensive legislation.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 27 print edition. Scott Mullen is a deputy news editor. Email him at [email protected]