Medical marijuana is on the agenda in Albany once again, with a State Senator working hard to corral Republicans for a soon-to-be-introduced bill. Maybe we're burned out from all the non-medical marijuana, but haven't we seen this movie before? Dude, that's right: in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and probably a bunch of other years we can't remember. But according to the Wall Street Journal, this time could be different, because the same political landscape that saw same-sex marriage pass could finally allow sick people to legally smoke grass, like they do in 16 other states.
State Senator Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island whose parents and grandfather died of lung cancer, has joined Republicans on other votes, and she seems optimistic she can get a bill through the Senate. (Such a bill is a much easier sell in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, which passed medical marijuana bills in 2007 and 2008 by wide margins.) Previous bills would have given patients and designated caregivers the right to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or less, as long as it was kept out of public view.
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who would sponsor the bill in the Assembly, tells the Journal "a new version of the bill would have a 'hardship' provision allowing patients who live far away from a dispensary to grow their own pot plants. It would also extend to patients deemed too sick to travel or too poor to buy the drug." But Savino says those provisions would probably have to go in order to attract more support from Republicans, who hate helping poor people.
A Quinnipiac University poll in 2010 found that 71 percent of those polled said medical marijuana is a "good idea," with the poll finding support "among all political, racial and regional groups." And Gabriel Sayegh, the New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells us, "It's great to see Assm. Gottfried and Sen. Savino re-introduce this legislation. Sixteen other states have the measure already—as does D.C. And two NY neighbors—Connecticut and New Hampshire—look poised to pass similar legislation soon. New York patients shouldn’t have to wait for relief any longer. They’ve waited long enough."
It's unclear where Governor Cuomo is on this. When he was running for Governor, he said the risks of medical marijuana outweighed the benefits. But last year he told reporters his administration did not have a final position on the matter. 28 Democrats in the Senate are believed to be supportive of a medical marijuana bill, which means they'd need at least four Republicans to join them in order for it to pass.
But Republican Senator Kemp Hannon, a Long Islander who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is poised to harsh the vibe. He tells the Journal it's a bad time to "loosen marijuana laws" what with all these other illegal drugs floating around out there. "To start dealing with other substances which have not been vetted or tested is not something I want to go near," Kemp Hannon says, in regard to this mysterious, untested new drug called "marijuana." Obviously, things would be way cooler if Long Island had just elected Hemp Cannon instead.