New York has officially legalized medical cannabis through an executive order made today, January 8th, by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Under the order, the possession of cannabis will be legal for medical purposes for those with debilitating conditions such as cancer and glaucoma. A limited number of hospitals will be authorized to prescribe cannabis to patients. Governor Cuomo hopes to have infrastructure in place to allow dispensaries to distribute cannabis to patients by the end of the year.
By making this executive order, Governor Cuomo bypasses the state’s legislature, which has refused to approve recent attempts to legalize medical cannabis. The order is made possibly through a little-known provision in the state’s public health law known as the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Program, which allows for the medical use of cannabis, but was never implemented.
Although advocates must continue to fight for broader reform, this move is clearly a positive development, and a significant step forward.