Governor Cuomo announced in his State of the State address last week that New York would embark on a plan to allow up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and other serious conditions. The announcement came on the heels of Colorado’s legalization and sale of marijuana and amidst a broader push by states to decriminalize its use. As it stands, 20 states—including our neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut—and the District of Colombia have laws in place that allow it in some form.
We reached out to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to gauge his feelings on the matter, and he’s not too happy.
Though Astorino believes “efforts to treat and comfort those suffering from cancer and other diseases are to be encouraged,” he reckons the governor went about instituting his policy undemocratically. “If the governor is serious about his medical marijuana proposal, it should be debated by our state legislators; scrutinized by medical and law enforcement professionals; and discussed by parents, educations, and civic leaders.” Cuomo issued the directive through a 1980 public health law, the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program, which allows for the use of controlled substances in treating certain diseases.
“The governor has done a huge disservice to the public by proceeding in the manner he has,” says Astorino. “The decision should not be taken by executive order but only with the approval of the state legislature and only after a comprehensive and open review by the public.”
Astorino also questions the need for medical marijuana in the first place, asking, “Just what problem would the governor’s proposal solve since physicians can already prescribe to cancer patients Marinol, a pill form of the active substance in marijuana?” He also questions where the marijuana will come from, how its quality will be controlled, and the policy’s impact on anti-drug education in schools.
Supporters of Cuomo’s actions say the move was long overdue. But some say it doesn’t go far enough and criticize it for being cumbersome; the law requires hospitals to have panels decide which patients qualify for medical marijuana on a case-by-case basis.