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New York to legalize use of medical marijuana – report

New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo is to legalize the use of marijuana in the state, using a decades-old public health law provision, the New York Times reports. The drug – which remains banned federally – will be prescribed for diagnosed medical ailments.

The liberalization of the previously strict local laws will be  announced during Wednesday’s State of the State address,  according to unnamed officials who spoke with the newspaper.

According to the proposal, twenty hospitals across New York State  would prescribe marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of a list of  certified conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and  glaucoma. The dispensaries and medical protocols have not yet  been approved, but the state reportedly hopes to put the  infrastructure in place within the year. Since growing marijuana  plants remains illegal, it is not clear how the drug would be  obtained by medical institutions, though there has been  suggestion that they may acquire it from the confiscated stocks  of law enforcement agencies.

If the program becomes operational, New York will become the 21st  state in the US to allow at least some legal use of cannabis.


On average about 50,000 people a year are arrested in connection  with the drug, the vast majority of whom were sanctioned for  smoking in public in New York City, which maintains a policy of  strict and visible policing. A year ago Cuomo moved to  decriminalize ‘open-view possession’, changing the penalty from a  misdemeanor to a fine, though the new laws have not come into  force.A major obstacle to any reform has been the Democrat-Republican  coalition in the State Senate, which has blocked four previous  bills allowing medical marijuana. Instead of taking on the  legislature, the New York Times says that Cuomo has decided to  revive a long-dormant provision in the state public health law  allowing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The ‘Antonio  G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program’,  passed after an appeal by a dying State Assembly member back in  1980, was previously considered costly and impractical, and never  implemented.

Despite polls that have consistently shown that a large majority  of New Yorkers support the legalization of marijuana, Cuomo  himself had previously been ambivalent on its legalization. In  turn, the new dispensation program is likely to be far stricter  than that in other states like California, where medical  marijuana is prescribed even for trivial medical issues, meaning  that those who want to use the drug recreationally have little  trouble getting their hands on it.

Only two US states allow open recreational use of cannabis at  present. Colorado opened its first legal marijuana retail outlets  on January 1, and Washington is set to do the same later this  year.

At the same time a legal rift is opening up between increasingly  liberal local legislation, and federal laws, which still forbid  its cultivation and possession.

Barack Obama – himself an admitted cannabis smoker in his younger  years – has said that his administration will not challenge state  practices, but has made no attempt to push through a nationwide  legalization of the drug.



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