New York: Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Compromise Measure

New York: Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Compromise Measure

Albany, NY: State lawmakers and Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed late last week to compromise legislation that seeks to provide qualified patients with access to limited preparations of cannabis. The last-minute changes to the bill were demanded by the Governor, who is expected to sign the revised measure into law imminently.

Under the proposed plan, state regulators intend to license five producers of cannabis-based preparations and up to 20 dispensing centers.

In order to be eligible to participate in the state’s program, patients will need to possess a physician’s recommendation and be diagnosed with one of the following qualifying conditions: cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies and "damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity." (A decision whether or not to approve other potential qualifying conditions, including Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, PTSD, and rheumatoid arthritis, must be made by the state health commissioner prior to the program’s implementation.) Physicians will be mandated to receive special educational training before they are permitted to legally recommend cannabis therapy to their patients.

However, unlike almost all other state medical cannabis programs, the New York plan does not permit qualified patients to possess or obtain whole-plant cannabis. Instead, the forthcoming program mandates that state-licensed distribution centers provide oils, pills, and/or extracts prepared from the plant. These products will be subject to a 7 percent state-imposed excise tax. The Department of Health is in charge of determining limits in regard to the quantity of cannabis products that a qualified patient may possess at one time.

The measure mandates the program to be implemented in 18 months, though it also contains a sunset provision — meaning that lawmakers would have to reapprove the program in seven years. Moreover, provisions in the legislation allow for the Governor, upon recommendation by the state police superintendent or the state health commissioner, to suspend the program at any time.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.