Here is an article on the failure of the medical cannabis bill in the 2012-2013 session of the New York State legislature. It indicates that reform advocates will try again next session to get a medical cannabis bill passed. As discussed in a previous post, it is time to give up on that campaign.
I first became aware of the medical-use-only bill in 2007 but I believe that Assembly Member Richard Gottfried started introducing the bill years before. He is to be commended for his efforts over at least six years but the bills have become progressively more conservative each session (beginning with the elimination of a personal cultivation option) in an apparent attempt to appease the Senate Republicans who oppose any reform – and continue to refuse to let the bill go to the floor of the Senate for a vote no matter how restrictive are its provisions.
The medical-use-only position is a loser – because it justifies prohibition. Senator Diane Savino promoted this year’s bill on the grounds that it is the strictest in the the country – as if, in light of the severe problems in implementing medical cannabis systems in other states – that is a good thing. The Senate Republicans obviously don’t care – and it is the wrong approach.
The campaign to legalize for medical-use-only was once progressive but now only reifies the position that cannabis is a drug from which the public must be protected as if it is radioactive and must remain prohibited except for a narrow medical exemption. It is not a dangerous drug. It is a plant – a botanical inebriant with therapeutic side effects, not a toxin so dangerous that it must be kept away even from terminal patients.
Proponents of reform tried to achieve two goals this session, (a) passing the medical-use-only bill and (b) amending the penal law to deprive the New York City Police Department of a trick it uses to get around the existing decriminalization law (thereby giving it a legal pretext for arresting five figures of New Yorkers each year). However they did so in separate bills. Approaching each separately split the effort unnecessarily. Full adult legalization (with medical use for minors as needed) will address both issues simultaneously. Continuing to advocate for medical-use-only plays into the hands of opponents who say that medical use is a hoax. Now that Washington State and Colorado have legalized all adult use, it is long past time to be honest and state that cannabis prohibition is a stupid policy that must be ended in New York State immediately.
The message should be that the Senate Republicans blew their chance to pass a conservative medical-use-only law, the presence of which would have held up full legalization for many years (because if the goal is medical then why do we need full legalization?). The consequence should be that they will get full legalization instead.