The New York Daily News recently posted an op-ed dismissing as a fraud the proposed medical cannabis law that has languished in the legislature for a decade as other states roar into the future, leaving New York a bumbling blue state backwater. DN’s op-ed essentially and ironically challenged the government to discuss full legalization but it was full of the same decoy arguments, presumably from the DEA playbook, that appear in every statement against a medical cannabis program.

Here is the response I sent to the editor. It didn’t get published so I am self-publishing.

To the editor:

Although I commend the Daily News for focusing on the proposed New York
medical marijuana law, your November 26 op-ed “New York must not get
rolled up in sham medical marijuana debate” is disappointing because it
simply recites the standard inaccurate objections asserted by all
opponents of marijuana law reform – even while it proposes a discussion
of full legalization.

For example, the claim that the law will fund the “Mexican Mafia” is a
typical mischaracterization: the law would place the entire supply side
(from cultivation to retail sale) under the control of the State
Department of Health – completely unlike the situation in California and
other early medical marijuana states. As for creating a regulatory
system that would be costly to enforce, the proposed law provides for
sales tax collection. If the Daily News thinks the tax rate would be too
low to cover expenses, what tax rate would be high enough?

The lack of FDA approval is irrelevant. Federal courts have already
ruled that the lack of FDA approval does not mean that there is no
medical use. Further, although the FDA has not granted permission to
market cannabis (that’s all FDA approval is) – that is because the
National Institute on Drug Abuse and the DEA have been obstructing an
FDA-compliant clinical trial of marijuana since 2002 by refusing to
provide marijuana to researcher Dr. Donald Abrams in San Francisco.
(Also note that the federal government itself has been giving
out marijuana to patients for decades under its “Compassionate Use”
program – seriously undermining the claim that there is no medical use.)

As for general legalization, the movement for medical use was a direct
reaction to the way that the government has regulated drugs for 100
years. The prohibition of all use of drugs except for medical purposes
forced advocates of more rational policies to fight for the minimum –
recognition of a medical use. Now that we see that close to twenty years
of a regulated medical marijuana market in California has not destroyed
the state, other states are moving on to regulation of the marijuana
market like alcohol.

The Daily News could do a real public service by taking a serious look
at how marijuana law works. If you want to skip over the cautious,
gradual process of introducing a medical use system and instead discuss
how cannabis could be regulated in New York like alcohol or under some even better system, then let’s do it.

Noah Potter, Esq.
Author, New Amsterdam Psychedelic Law Blog
Former Chairman of the NYC Bar Association’s Committee on Drugs and the

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