Cuomo Key to NY Medical Marijuana

As residents of the District of Columbia move closer to being able to use medical marijuana for relief from pain associated with serious illnesses, New Yorkers are seeing the possibility of the same relief fade. State Sen. Diane Savino, who lost both her parents to cancer, continues to champion the legalization of medical marijuana as an issue of necessity and compassion; 71% of New Yorkers agree with her and favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

However, this legislation (which has yet to be introduced) is not expected to move far.  Gov. Cuomo, whose position on the issue has wavered from opposition to a more neutral position, has signaled there is not enough time left in the session for proper consideration of the issue. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

This is not the first (and probably not the last) time legislation seeking to legalize medical marijuana has been introduced in Albany.  Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and the New York state legislature has debated the issue for many years.  Whether or not this is the year the legislation passes remains to be seen, but without the full support of Gov. Cuomo, the legalization of medical marijuana does not seem to be a possibility in the near future..

In explaining his hesitancy on this issue, Gov. Cuomo consistently claims that the dangers of medical marijuana outweigh the benefits, but it cannot have escaped notice that the U.S. Justice Department is cracking down on dispensaries in states where medicinal marijuana is already legalized.  While this political calculus could protect New York from unwanted attention from the federal government, it sadly misses the point—in some cases, marijuana is the only method of pain relief for many terminal illnesses.  Bringing relief to New Yorkers battling serious illnesses should also remain a priority of New York lawmakers.

Jewish tradition emphasizes that a physician is obligated to heal the sick (Maimonides commentary on Mishnah Nedarim 4:4). The use of marijuana as medicine can be traced back at least 5,000 years. Reports on the medical use of marijuana have indicated that it provides relief from symptoms and treatment side effects of several serious illnesses such as glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, and muscle spasms that often accompany multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. As such, in 2003, the URJ passed a resolution expressing support for federal, state and local laws that would “allow the medicinal use of marijuana” as a method of relief from painful and serious illnesses.

Keep checking RACblog for updates on the passage and implementation of medical marijuana legislation across the country.


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Molly Benoit

About Molly Benoit

Molly Benoit is the RAC Legislative Associate and was a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She is from Palm City, FL, and a member of Temple Beit HaYam.

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