The New York Senate, led by Governor Mario Cuomo, has listened to their constituents and have voted 49 to 10 to pass the bill that will legalize medical marijuana for New York state residents. For the moment, the pilot program will run for a period of seven years.
It took an overnight assembly to pass the bill, thanks in large part to Democrats who hold the majority in the Senate and who have long been in favor of medical marijuana. While it may take as long as 18 months to cross the T’s and dot the I’s, eligible patients will have access to medical marijuana immediately.
A deal was finally struck after days of back and forth between the Legislature and Mr. Cuomo. It was he who had put forward what was viewed as a more restrictive, basically unworkable version of the bill earlier in the year.
One of the big sticking points had to do with how the drug would be ingested by users, Cuomo was adamant that edibles and other such methods would not be acceptable. What he wanted, and which ended up helping the case, was that the drug would be used via vaporizers similar to electronic cigarettes.
Cuomo had said that while there were definite medical benefits to be found in the drug, there were also some concerns and risks that needed to be avoided. He spoke in particular about safety and law enforcement issues, but also felt that the bill that passed was written in such a way that all such concerns would be minimized.
The program will be looked after and maintained by the State Health Department, who will have the power to “pull the plug” if they see fit. This is viewed by many as the ultimate safety measure, and is one that ultimately allowed the bill to pass.
Patients that would be eligible to use the drug would be those who have AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, and a number of different degenerative conditions.
The health department will be given up to 18 months to put regulations in place, which would include who would be able to dispense the drug. In the meantime, doctors will likely be trained on how the drug should be recommended. As of now there will be a mixture of 5 businesses and non-profits who will be dispensing the drug from 4 different locations across the state. The medical marijuana will be grown in state and will be subject to a 7% state tax.
New York joins 19 other states who allow patients access to medical marijuana for a number of different ailments. While the majority of those states allow the drug to be smoked, New York will suggest that their patients try using vaporizers and vaporizer pens.