NY needs to catch up
New York has had a tortuous history getting its medical marijuana program running, but now that enlightened effort has been further complicated by a neighboring state legalizing pot altogether.
New York has been considerably behind other states in helping to relieve those suffering with cancer, glaucoma and other serious illnesses.
Two years ago, the state passed medical marijuana legislation, but, in a shortsighted manner, it put more regulatory restrictions on the process and the drug’s use than virtually any other state.
Predictably, those hindrances have become apparent in the implementation of the law. For instance, only marijuana extracts such as liquid and oil for vaporization and capsules can be made and distributed; neither smoking nor eating it in its raw form is legal in New York. And the state took the unusual route of requiring physicians to complete an educational $250 online course before they can authorize medical marijuana for patients — something not typically applied to other new drugs or other states. As is, there are only five medical marijuana companies with 20 dispensaries in New York state.
State health officials now say they want to double both these numbers. They also intend to increase access by allowing nurse practitioners to administer the drug for certified patients — which would help those living in rural areas — and through home delivery, where the registered companies can offer medical marijuana to patients after undergoing a department review.
Frankly, these policies should have been instituted from the inception. While New York has lumbered along, attitudes toward marijuana have changed across the country and, this election, they hit close to home. Voters in Massachusetts voted to legalize recreation marijuana, and this surely will have an impact on New York, a bordering state. Possession of some pot in Massachusetts will start being legal on Dec. 15, and marijuana shops will begin opening in 2018.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have said they have no interest in trying to move legalization efforts forward in New York. Perhaps that is the case for now, but, following this year’s election results, seven states — as well as the District of Columbia — now have approved such legislation.
New York can take that fight up another day. For now, state officials have to iron out the obvious deficiencies with the medical-marijuana program and expand it quickly to bring relief to those needlessly in pain.
This editorial was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal, a member of the USA Today Network.