Post-mortem on the medical-use-only bill in the New York State legislature

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. 

10 thoughts on “Post-mortem on the medical-use-only bill in the New York State legislature

  1. Though I commend Liz Krueger for introducing a full legalization bill, I have apprehension about the Cannabis as alcohol model that makes no sense at all. Is more THC more dangerous? Regulating cannabis like alcohol is still problematic and creates all sorts of poor models for regulation, taxation and distribution.

    Cannabis, the plant, should be regulated by intended use rather than arbitrary comparison with no substantial rational other than fear. A buzz is not intended use, smoking is. Eating is. Fiber market uses are also. What we need is a new rational approach based on sound reasoning.

    This is the intent of the Cannabis Commerce Act. Regulate the business rather than the personal use of anything. It only makes sense in the models of business we already apply to every other product that is not contaminated by the “Drug Issue” and fear.


  2. Thanks for the comments. KM – I have only skimmed the Krueger bill and noted that it puts regulatory authority in the liquor control board. I don't know that this is a good idea, which is why I added the qualification “subject to ensuring that the final version is adequate to achieve the goal of full legalization.” I intend to review the bill and offer my comments now that we know that we will not be dealing with regulation by the Department of Health for at least another year.


  3. they only understand 2 things political power and money if a organized party for legaliation showed how many votes were in favor for this movement i know they would change there stance until then its just a couple of stoners and sick people with a small voice


  4. I support both measures, medical and full legalization, however, medical marijuana is a choice that my patients deserve. My government should not be making healthcare decisions that physicians should be able to make with their patients. The only people that have difficulty obtaining marijuana are patients. The weak and infirm. Anyone can get it on the street, but the 70 year old cancer patient who is too sick to find it, suffers needlessly, given the option to take Zofran (or some other pharmacological antiemetic medication) and becomes a criminal if they chose and get caught with an herbal preparation to ease pain and nausea. I hope my position makes sense. It takes years to get a bill passed in NY and full legalization may hold everything up yet again. NY is dysfunctional. I can't even begin to predict how a legalization bill is going to be received.


  5. Yes your position makes sense. The problem I see is that the Senate Republicans mock the reform movement – they know they can exact any compromise, and then kill the bill again. At this poing continuing with the medical approach is basically aiming so low that you get nothing. At one time I believed it is better to go slowly and cautiously so that, as in other states, a functional system can be set up first and then evolve. Then I saw Colorado and Washington and then I saw the New York sponsors of the bill get sucked the opposite direction into the don't-worry-we're-really-strict spiral downwards – which basically means the liberals are begging the conservatives to approve them as sufficiently repressive. The conservatives love it and, of course, step on the sycophant's face as they walk away. The last round of changes on June 14 was basically the Senate Republicans urinating on the reform movement to show that no matter how low you go, they will never let you have it. No, if you want medical you need to ATTACK – no more Mr Nice Guy. I mean take it to their offices, do die-ins like ACT-UP used to do, point the media their way so that the media can associate names and faces with the opposition, stand up at their press conferences and demand an explanation, etc. But I don't think you can reach that level of strength without a much larger coalition and my point is that ultimately the greatest strength is a united front of all the proponents of a regulated system – not a collection of special interest groups.


  6. …we have worked and supported this Medical Bill for years and also thought that yes baby steps was the way to go. After this session I must agree with Noah, we were pissed on. We were nothing more than beggars at the door, apologizing for being such a bother. The time for apologies is over, I want the Freedoms that were taught to us in the Forth Grade. The Republican Party is in a free fall of decline and I don't expect Freedom to come from the Democrats either. The Republican Party needs to see this as a Conservative issue, one of less Government control. They should be convinced that this is their way back as well I don't need or want any ones permission to behave as a Free Man. effectively uniting the Cannabis Community will not be easy. Unlike the struggle for Gay Rights, we have the threat of Hard Time held over our heads. I am but a Soldier in this War on U.S.and I look for competent marching orders. Forty some years and nothing has changed, we need a new Model to work from, Civil disobedience without Drug charge arrests. Ending the Drug War will lead to opportunities for many, much of the injustices visited upon America can be directly connected to the War on U.S. apologies should be forthcoming from those who waged War upon U.S., we should not be apologizing to them. I believe we should try to take over the Republican Party, every one against this War should re-register in the GOP, we can take it over from the inside. I appreciate you being a Voice of reason Noah.


  7. Love the attitude! And, of course, it's all true: cannabis prohibition was based on a pack of racist lies and is sustained by corporatist/fascist lies to protect the alcohol, tobaccoa nd pharmaceutical industries from competition – NEVER a valid excuse to keep criminalizing peaceful Americans whose only “crime” is their failure to kiss ass to arbitrarily repressive politician-pigs.


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