Too bad weed is not cool, because New York will finally catch up to the 20 other states (and D.C.!) with medical marijuana laws this week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his State of the State address.
The New York Times first reported that Cuomo will announce an executive action on Wednesday making medical marijuana legal for patients with serious illnesses, under strict conditions. The New York Daily News and the New York Post both confirmed the announcement.
New York was never going to have medical weed laws as relaxed as, say, California, where anxiety or a back ache will get you a prescription. As detailed to the Times, the Daily News and the Post, Cuomo's strict plan will grant 20 as-yet-undetermined hospitals across New York the right to distribute and prescribe medical marijuana. Patients suffering from "life threatening" or "sense threatening" illnesses like cancer or glaucoma who comply with standards set by the New York State Department of Health will be given the right to smoke.
But the interesting thing about the plan is how, exactly, Cuomo is legalizing weed. Cuomo is activating powers granted to him through an existing but rarely enforced 1980 provision in public health law named for a former city councillor who used marijuana to deal with his illnesses. Per the Times:
In taking the matter into his own hands, the governor is relying on a provision in the public health law known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program. It allows for the use of controlled substances for “cancer patients, glaucoma patients, and patients afflicted with other diseases as such diseases are approved by the commissioner.”
"The provision, while unfamiliar to most people, had been hiding in plain sight since 1980," the Times says. Medical weed has technically been legal for years.
Right now it's impossible to say when the state will start dolling out prescriptions, but the Times reports Cuomo hopes it will happen within the year. It seems timely to mention that Cuomo is up for re-election in November, and rumors of a feud with the "It" progressive, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, have circled the New York politicians recently.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.