Everything Wrong With Cuomo's Medical Marijuana Law

Christopher Robbins, Gothamist

Far from the "historic step" lauded by politicians who were cowed into submission by their self-aggrandizing chief executive, New York's medical marijuana law is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that puts Governor Cuomo's political aspirations ahead of patients' rights, common sense, and the popular will of his constituents.

Listening to Governor Cuomo guess how many joints are in two and a half ounces of cannabis feels like a time warp in a state where the vast majority of voters support medical marijuana and a small majority support legalizing it altogether.

"It is considered a gateway drug," Cuomo said yesterday during a symbolic signing event for the legislation."We are dealing with a heroin epidemic that is frightening."

No it isn't, and no we're not.

"Smoking marijuana is dangerous to your health, so it was almost oxymoronic that a health department would operate a program allowing smoking, which they spend a significant amount of their time trying to stop people from smoking," Cuomo said, defending his bill.

A letter signed by New York Physicians for Compassion Care cites five different studies referencing the lack of association between cancer and chronic marijuana smoking, and points out that forcing patients to vaporize marijuana extracts "may leave out therapeutically important" chemical compounds for patients. Ingesting edible marijuana, as Maureen Dowd will tell you, "may be too potent for some patients to tolerate, compared to the whole plant botanical material."

Americans For Safe Access, which gave New York's medical marijuana law a grade of F+ [PDF], adds that by forcing patients to buy expensive vaporizers and proprietary marijuana solutions, the law creates a "prohibitive cost for many patients who cannot afford to purchase what would otherwise be an inexpensive medicine to grow."

The bill Cuomo insisted on signing also carries a misdemeanor charge if patients possess any more than than a 30-day supply of their medicine. Meanwhile, possessing up to 25 grams of illicit marijuana has carried a $100 fine and no criminal charges since the late 1970s.

Cuomo can talk about the law's supposed "nuanced approach," but it has rightly been deemed a "purely political" decision on his part to maintain conservative bonafides for a constituency that no longer matters.

We have seen this before: earlier this year Cuomo jettisoned his plan to end the staggering racial divide in marijuana arrests and decriminalize small amounts of the plant because "It's not timely in the way it was last year....It's a nonstarter for me."

Amanda Houser, a 10-year-old who suffers severe seizures stood next to Cuomo as he signed the legislation yesterday. "We were prepared to move out of New York State if we needed to, in order to get Amanda this treatment," her mother told NY1. "I hope it comes soon."

Cuomo's law won't go into effect for eighteen months, likely more.

"This is supposed to be for serious diseases," Cuomo said on WCNY last month, explaining the restrictions. "This isn't supposed to have loopholes that you can drive a truck through, right?"