New York is Closer Than Ever to a Passing a Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Law--But Don't Hold Your Breath

Categories: Marijuana

rafael-castillo via Flickr
On Tuesday, the New York State Senate's Health Committee voted to approve the Compassionate Care Act. If the bill goes on to pass the full senate, it would create a comprehensive statewide system for New Yorkers to access medical marijuana.

I know what you're thinking--didn't Governor Andrew Cuomo say back in January that he was going to legalize medical weed? Yeah, he said that, but his declaration came with a truckload of caveats: the program would be limited only to patients with specific ailments, and the marijuana, which the state planned to buy from the federal government, would be dispensed at just 20 hospitals. That plan, which was allocated $0 of funding in this year's state budget, has enough built-in logistical obstacles that, realistically, it will years before it sees the light of day, if it does at all.

See also: New York's Long-Running War on Weed

...Which brings us back to the Compassionate Care Act: the bill medical marijuana advocates think is the state's best bet for achieving the kind of access that patients in other states already have, and the bill could--could--pass the legislature sometime in the next three weeks.

Tuesday's vote was just the first of two committee votes the bill needs in its favor before it makes it to the floor. But the fact that it passed the health committee is actually a milestone in its own right: the bill has been introduced in the New York State Assembly every year since 1997, and though it has passed that house four times, it has always died in the Senate later. The bill has only made it past the health committee on one other occassion.

So, what was different this time? The Drug Policy Alliance's Gabriel Sayegh says, "The thing that's different here is that there is a much more significant public campaign for reform, patients are far more active than they've ever been, there is a national wave of reform underway and the bill sponsor, Senator Savino, she fought tooth and nail inside the Senate in order to get that up for a vote."

Still, you probably don't want to pour your savings into dispensary equipment just yet. The legislative session ends June 19, and the bill still needs to pass the finance committee. If it gets there, Sayegh, who's organization has been a major supporter of the bill, believes it has a good shot at passing. "It's actually going to be an easier vote in many respects because there are more supporters on the finance committee than there were on the health committee."

The question is whether or not the committee chair and the senate leadership will allow the bill to come up.

The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Staten Island's Diane Savino, is working on that now. "We don't know when its going to come to the finance committee," Savino's chief of staff, Robert Cataldo tells the Voice. It would take "at least a couple of weeks," he added. The legislative session ends exactly three weeks from today. Asked if he was hopeful the bill would get it to the committee in time, Cataldo asked, "Really?," then laughed loudly. "No, I think our bill is going to fail." And you know what they say: there's an element of truth in every sarcastic remark.

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People are gonna smoke it regardless if its legal or not so why not just legalize it and get some money going through this broken state we call NY!!! I live across the street from a VFW where they drink alcohol all day and that's legal I've watched countless fights,cars backing into each other people falling all over the place a lot of people walk out of the place and just drive home like its nothing.I have lost a few friends to DWI accidents but never have I lost someone to smoking weed ever.I know people from all walks of life that smoke and they have jobs and a family so all you people saying "oh it makes you lazy and unproductive" are full of shit!! maybe it makes you lazy and unproductive but people can live normal productive lives smoking weed believe it or not.People can smoke Tobacco and kill themselves legal and drink themselves to death but we can't smoke a god given HERB that grows out of the ground COME ON open your eyes and smell the herb its time to legalize it NOW.Oh yeah as for HERB being a gateway drug that's comical at best Because we all know ALCOHOL is the biggest gateway drug out and that's a fact....JAH BLESS!!

Jenn Maskell
Jenn Maskell

Yes, because the three NY'ers who are afraid to smoke weed now cause it's illegal would really love to try it already...;)

Quay Quayhaylaya
Quay Quayhaylaya

Sure. The investment banks took all of their money, hopes and dreams in 2008, why not let them ride out the rest of their lives as quiet, contented, anesthetized slaves? Look, anyone who's ever used the stuff for any period of time knows it makes you a lazy, unproductive slave to the pipe. Pot is garbage. Legalization is like one last cruel joke on a populace swindled and jived out of a future. Have at it.

frank124c topcommenter

Marijuana should be legalized entirely. Anyone who wants it should be able to buy it. The people want it, it has medicinal properties and is less harmful than drugs--legal and illegal--that people are now using.  Of course this will never happen because the big corporations that make huge sums from selling alcohol would never allow it. Not to mention the mob that sells crack and heroine, and not to mention the doctors who sell phoney baloney "medicine" that doesn't work at all. 


Prevention and treatment are many times more effective(for valve of dollars spent) than enforcement. So if we really want to fight drug use we should be focusing on it instead of enforcement.The drug war is a sham. We have been fighting this war for 45 years, our jails are full, we have ruined countless lives, and spent over a trillion dollars. Drugs are cheaper, purer and more plentiful than they were when the drug war started. The problem is kids know marijuana isn't that bad for you so when you tell children that marijuana is this bad drug they don't believe you and think you must be lying about other drugs too. I don't personally take drugs or alcohol but I have friends that do and have normal productive lives. They have good jobs, own their own houses, make it to work every day etc etc By the way marijuana is only addictive in a very small percentage of users, much less than those who use alcohol or prescription drugs and a lot less damaging.

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