Advocates in New York say we’re now “closer than we’ve ever been before” to becoming the 22nd state to legalize medicinal marijuana, thanks to a new, stricter version of legislation that’s heading to Albany this spring. According to Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, a longtime local advocate for legalization, the new restrictions would make New York’s the tightest medical marijuana laws in the country. “I think a lot of people are watching this because New York is uniquely positioned right now to be the next state. And not just the next state, but the most important state,” said Savino.
Under the re-written legislation, weed prescriptions would only be legal for a specific set of around 20 conditions, including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD. Previous versions had used broad language some legislators worried would lead to abuse and over-prescription. Savino says the bill has the support of a majority of senators, but this kind of legislation has stalled repeatedly in the State Senate, and still has its prominent skeptics; as State Sen. Marty Golden put it, “To me it’s just the camel’s nose underneath the tent for the legalization of marijuana.”
Even Governor Cuomo’s plan for limited medical marijuana has raised eyebrows, albeit for logistical policy reasons rather than blanket objections to giving sick people medicine. Still, 51 percent of voters now support legalizing weed for medical purposes, and this new bill looks like less of a long shot than many that’ve come before it. So, fingers crossed?
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.