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Why Is The Empire State Going Slow On Cannabis Reform?

The General

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New York state is widely seen as the second largest cannabis market in the country. Yet legislatively at present, no law is currently on the books to regulate even medical marijuana. That said this is a battle which has been going on for years. Last week the Senate Health Committee passed, for the first time, a comprehensive medical marijuana bill that would legalize cannabis. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. If it passes this committee, the bill could come to a full vote in the state Senate before the end of this legislative session.

According to Troy Smit, Executive Director of the Long Island Chapter of NORML, the lack of leadership on these issues in New York is odd but not unexpected. "It's very strange indeed," he said. "New York bills itself as a progressive state, but we're only selectively progressive." Smit characterizes this delay as typical of the New York state legislative process. There are several legislative efforts now underway in the Empire State to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.

The broadest state legislation to legalize use by medical patients is called the Compassionate Care Act. The bill looks much like other state legislation around the country in that it gives patients the right to obtain medication if they are registered with the state, have a debilitating condition for which marijuana is likely to have a therapeutic effect, a doctor's prescription, and are over 21. The bill also attempts to start to create a system for sales and distribution. Distribution would occur via dispensaries, pharmacies or other authorized venues. Marijuana would also be taxed at $250 per pound, with 50% going to the local county in which sales occurred.

By contrast, the proposal supported most actively by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the most restrictive legislation now on the table. Many observers -- including industry analysts, patients and businesses -- have criticized the unwieldy, if not unrealistic, plan. According to Smit, Governor Cuomo's proposal would authorize 20 hospitals to distribute cannabis to patients with cancer or glaucoma participating in a limited number of research programs and studies. This would only authorize a small percentage of patients who would qualify to use cannabis medicinally under the Compassionate Care Act. Per Smit, "The Governor's plan ...to reinstitute the archaic 1980 marijuana research program is noble in intentions but lacks the feasibility of the Compassionate Care Act (CCA)."

Smit also believes that the Governor's plan is not very feasible given the current federal environment. "It's highly doubtful that the governor's plan to distribute marijuana through hospitals for research programs can be implemented," Smit said. "Bringing hospitals into the medical marijuana industry will be a big part of streamlining medical marijuana as a legitimate medicine but due to federal restriction it's unlikely to happen until cannabis is rescheduled at the federal level." That said, Smit also believes New York's approach and pace is typical of the progress of medical cannabis legislation around the country. As Smit responded, "No state has passed legislation governing the responsible adult use of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes, likewise no state has achieved a tax and regulate model before a medicinal model has been implemented."

One of the other anomalies in New York's market is that despite areas of New York state like the Hamptons and Manhattan where cannabis legalization is highly popular among voters and where legalization might take place on a municipal level to boost tourism, there has been no widespread concerted effort to organize the same. According to Smit, the New York City council is the only municipal government, which has taken a distinct move to support pending state legalization efforts. Despite the delay caused by different agendas, activists in the state are still pleased with progress this year. Per Smit, "With Cuomo signalling his support for medical marijuana as a whole he is further legitimizing our efforts."

Despite the continual retrenchments, overall Smit for one is enthusiastic about the progress medical marijuana legislation has made in the state this year. He believes that New York legislators are curious about developments in other states, particularly Colorado and the tax revenues generated from the same. "I think it will be a wider national push from multiple states that will push New York into the industry," Smit said.

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News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
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Website: Why Is The Empire State Going Slow On Cannabis Reform?
 
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