New York set to allow limited use of medical marijuana

The move by US state will grant access to marijuana for those with serious illnesses.

New York: New York could soon join a growing group of American states that allow limited use of marijuana, with Governor Andrew Cuomo planning to announce an executive action that would grant access to the drug for those with serious illnesses, a media report said.

The drug, however, will not be as easily available as it is in states like Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions as mild as backaches.

In New York, only 20 hospitals across the state will be allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma or other diseases that meet standards to be set by the New York State Department of Health, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The move by Cuomo, a Democrat who had long resisted legalising medical marijuana, comes as other American states loosen the restrictions on the use of the drug and make it available for recreational use.

"While Cuomo's measure falls well short of full legalisation, it nonetheless moves New York, long one of the nation's most punitive states for those caught using or dealing drugs, a significant step closer to policies being embraced by marijuana advocates and lawmakers elsewhere," the report said.

It added that New York hopes to have the infrastructure in place this year to begin dispensing medical marijuana. Cuomo is expected to announce the shift on Wednesday in his annual state of the state address.

The move will be the latest of several instances in which the governor has embarked on a major social policy effort sure to bolster his popularity with a large portion of his political base.

The report said that the governor's action comes as advocates for changing drug laws have stepped up criticism of New York City's stringent enforcement of marijuana laws, which resulted in nearly 450,000 misdemeanor charges from 2002 to 2012, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana.

According to a person briefed on the governor's views, Cuomo is of the belief that the programme he has drawn up for marijuana use can help those in need, while limiting the potential for abuse.

Cuomo is also up for election this year, and polls have shown overwhelming support for medical marijuana in New York, with 82 per cent of New York voters approving of the idea in a survey. However, while medical marijuana bills have passed the State Assembly four times — most recently in 2013 — they have stalled in the Senate.

( Source : PTI )
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