New York is now the newest state in the U.S. to permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that would allow sufferers of certain illnesses to legally obtain and use marijuana for medical treatment.
The newly enacted marijuana law now allows individuals suffering from serious and life-threatening health problems to use medical cannabis as treatment for their condition but compared with other marijuana laws implemented in other states, New York's version is one of the most restrictive so far.
While patients in other states that legalize medical marijuana have the option to either grow their pot or get it from a dispensary, New York will select and license up to five businesses that would grow and distribute the drug.
Patients also are prohibited from smoking marijuana. They would have to ingest the drug or have it administered through a vaporizer, waxes or oil base. Of the 23 states in the U.S. that embraced medical marijuana, only New York and Minnesota prohibit the smoking of the drug. Patients are also required to sign up for the medical marijuana program and could only get prescriptions from state-approved physicians.
Advocates of medical marijuana said that the law is too restrictive and that New York should also include individuals with other forms of illnesses for the program. The state's law only allows individuals with AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy, neuropathies or inflammatory bowel movement to have access to medical cannabis.
Cuomo, who was once opposed to medical pot said, that the restrictions can help prevent abuse. "We are here to help people and if there's a medical advancement, we want to help bring it to New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "This legislation gets us the best medical marijuana has to offer, in the most protective, controlled way possible."
Patients may not be able to get their hands on medical pot just yet as the first medications are not likely to be available in the next 18 months as regulators, health service providers and potential distributors still have to work out on licensing, certification and other related matters involved in the implementation of the program.
Missy Miller, whose teenage son Oliver suffers from hundreds of seizures a day, said she is glad that the governor understands the medical benefits of marijuana but said that eighteen months is just too long.