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Medical Marijuana is Now Legal in New York
As Washington opened the doors of its first marijuana stores on Monday, a 23rd state approved marijuana legislation. On July 7, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the state’s “Compassionate Care Act.” This adds the Big Apple to a growing list of states with legalized forms of medical marijuana.
The Road to Legalization
New York’s Senate approved the new THC legislation by a vote of 49 to 10; however the journey leading to its approval was a bumpy one. Both supporters and opposition spent long hours debating the issues surrounding medical marijuana. In fact, the issue has been debated in Albany for more than a decade, with many voicing concerns as to whether or not the state can handle the regulation or demand created by the Compassionate Care Act.
Cuomo demanded the inclusion of a specific clause that would allow him to shut down the medical marijuana program at any time…Governor Cuomo has voiced his own reservations about the bill. In fact, Cuomo’s personal concerns led to the decision that smokable marijuana would not be legalized. Additionally, Cuomo demanded the inclusion of a specific clause that would allow him to shut down the medical marijuana program at any time, should he have reason to believe the system was being abused.
The Compassionate Care Act
According to details of the New York law, patients certified to use marijuana for the treatment of a “serious condition” can now legally do so, providing the treatment is “prescribed by a certified physician.”
Additional specifics of the Compassionate Care Act include:
- The New York Department of Health is expected to have the program up and running within the next 18 months.
- Only state-certified doctors will be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
- The state will award five contracts to private marijuana growers, each of which will be allowed to open a maximum of four dispensaries.
- Governor Cuomo estimates it will take up to nine months for farmers to grow the marijuana.
- The new law only allows medical marijuana to be used in a non-smokable form – including pills, oils and vapors.
- Only patients with cancer, epilepsy and other serious diseases/conditions will be approved for the use of medical marijuana.
States on the Verge
New York won’t be the last state to legalize marijuana use. In fact, there are at least four states in the process of passing similar legislation. Those include:
- Alaska: If legislation is approved, adults could use marijuana legally and purchase it at state-licensed stores, but public use would still be illegal.
- Oregon: Lawmakers will vote on legislation in November.
- District of Columbia: 55,000 signatures for a legalization initiative were delivered on Monday – twice the number required to put the issue before voters. It would allow legal possession of up to two ounces of marijuana.
- Florida: State lawmakers already voted to legalize a strain of low-potency marijuana to treat epilepsy and cancer patients. Voters will decide whether to allow the drug for medicinal use in November.
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