New York State's Long-Running War on Weed

Louisa Bertman
Despite Andrew Cuomo's promises, the end might not be near.
A U.S. map that shows where pot is legal looks a lot like recent electoral college maps, except instead of blue, the liberal states are rendered in green: the entire West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada), progressive mountain and Midwest states (Colorado, New Mexico; Michigan, Illinois), all of New England, plus New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing medical marijuana; in two of them, recreational weed is all good, too.

Conspicuously absent from that map: New York.

How is it that one of the most liberal states, with a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the state assembly, a state where popular support for legalization is overwhelming — a February poll from Quinnipiac University showed 88 percent of New Yorkers are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana — how can such a left-leaning state lag so far behind its ideological peers?

Albany, replies Gabriel Sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, is a place "fraught with drug war politics, and it lacks a coherent sort of frame-work to address these types of questions."

For one thing, Sayegh explains, "You have a history of some very draconian policies" like the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which set the mandatory sentence for selling two ounces or possessing four at a mandatory 15 years, minimum. (Those laws remained on the books until 2009.) Four decades later, New York leads the nation in arrests for marijuana. And it's not even close: According to an ACLU report, the Empire State made 29 percent more pot busts than its closest competitor, Texas.

"On the other hand, you have some really smart innovations that have occurred," Sayegh adds. New York, for instance, passed legislation to research the therapeutic applications of marijuana way back in 1980.

In January, Andrew Cuomo announced he would use that 1980 law — the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program — as the legal basis for his own medical marijuana program. "We'll establish a program allowing up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana, and we will monitor the program to evaluate the effectiveness and the feasibility of a medical marijuana system," Cuomo declared.

For a man who only a few years earlier declared his unequivocal opposition to legalizing medical marijuana, that was quite the turnaround. "The dangers of medical marijuana outweigh the benefits," Cuomo said on the campaign trail in 2010. It could raise revenues, though, a reporter noted. "A lot of things could raise revenues," Cuomo said. "Legalizing prostitution could raise revenues. I'm against that, too."

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   I am for legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. I am disabled due to sustaining severe physical injuries. Apparently my vehicle's transmission locked up and I rolled over nine times. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, short term memory loss and suffer from severe intractable chronic pain. I been on morphine, fentanyl for years. I had anterior/posterior spine surgery with rods and screws. I suffer from severe spasms and stenosis, ruptured discs in my neck. I have a diseased hip that will need a replacement soon, arthritic knees, a torn shoulder w/impingement and multiple areas in my body that I experience excruciating pain on a daily basis. I take Morphine, been on methadone, brain squeezing drugs as anti depressants to get my mind off the pain that I feel. I was told by my Orthopedic Surgeon that I would benefit from cervical spine surgery. I had multiple surgeries all over my body. My pain management physician who worked in Sloan Kettering Cancer hospital in New York City, has told me that I would benefit from medical marijuana.

    Recently I told my family physician that I didn't feel like myself, run down, lack of interest in sex, moody, depressed! He took blood test and found that my testosterone level was 53, very low! My Doctor ordered a brain MRI w/enhancement. The MRI revealed a 4 centimeter micro tumor in my Pituitary gland in my brain. I was told that I got this from chronic use of narcotics to reduce my chronic pain! While I am in pain management I constantly and getting random drug test to see that I am taking my narcotics and to see if I am on street drugs. This would violate my current pain contract with my Doctor and I would be discharged from his care and practice! My physician told me that I would benefit from marijuana to ease my pain suffering from my failed back syndrome and the other orthpaedic problems that I have to deal with on a daily basis! He has stated that as soon as medicinal marijuana is legal and available, that I would be the first to get it!

     Now from taking my testosterone injections on a weekly basis that has caused glaucoma, very high pressure in my eyes! My eye surgeon gave me laser eye surgery in both eyes to have the pressure reduce. The surgery was a partial success but I need eye lowering medicine drops to reduce the pressure, one eye drop in each eye - two times a day! My pressure was just taken the other day and it was at 20., still a little on the high side! My eye Surgeon said I would also benefit from Medicinal marijuana with my health problems! I honestly do not want a spinal stimulator iimplanted surgically inside of me. I then would not be able to get any more MRI's and would only be able to get Cat scans. More extensive radiation, like I haven't received enough radiation from 100's of x rays and at least 20 Cat scans. I hope that the this Legalization goes in effect real soon so everyone in NYS who has health issues can benefit from Medicinal marijuana, including myself!


I am for the legalization of marijuana not just for medicinal purposes, but recreational, as well. The war on drugs, like Andy 'L'il Duce' Cuomo's new "War on Guns" has only affected former law abiding folks. The war is a boon for lawyers whose income goes up whenever any new law is passed: texting while driving, using a cell phone handheld while driving, seat belt use laws, etc.. I am against PL 265 & 400 (anti-gun, people control laws--Gov. Cuomo's (U.N.)S.A.F.E. Law inclusive), as both are wholly unconstitutional, regardless of how the state looks at the issue of state security. It is not the "security of the state" but the security of the people's rights that are paramount in our country. Our freedom, and our security, come from our ability to pursue happiness in whatever manner we so desire. Are some drugs controversial, and even detrimental? Sure. How we deal with that depends on how free a society we remain.


Come to 420 Day sunday April 20 Foley Square Thomas Paine Park 2PM. Free the weed. Medical pot!


The war on drugs has been a complete failure and a total waste of taxpayers $$$$.

With the total de-criminalization of cannabis--maybe the NYPD will stop their bogus

frisks of African-Americans--(both males and females) who may happen to be carrying

a mere nickle bag on their person!!!!!

frank124c topcommenter

Marijuana has many medicinal uses and benefits. Legalizing it and taxing it would not only benefit all of the people of New York but would also bring in much needed funds to the state. The only thing that stops marijuana from being legalized are the corrupt politicians.

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