Proposal to Legalize Medical Marijuana Use in NY Spurs Debate about NJ

The debate surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana in New Jersey is about to get hotter. This is because New York could soon follow in the footsteps of its border state and legalize the medical use of marijuana. NY State Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently unveiled a plan that will allow some hospitals in the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with serious illnesses. The plan relies on an obscure 1980 law that allows patients suffering from diseases such as cancer and glaucoma to participate in a research program that administers marijuana.

Although Cuomo’s plan won’t go into effect for at least a year – NY health officials must first conduct research to verify which medical conditions will trigger prescriptions – a healthy debate about the benefits and pitfalls of legalized medical marijuana use has already begun.

The debate fostered by Cuomo’s announcement has led some to raise potential downsides to the plan:

  • Federal regulations may prevent NY hospitals from participation: State hospitals could potentially lose federal funding for distributing marijuana because it is still a federal crime for doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana
  • Insurance policies could deter hospitals from taking part in the program
  • The plan might not help enough people: Many patients who may be in need of medical marijuana to ease their suffering would still be denied access to marijuana
  • The marijuana certified for use in NY may not be safe: In accordance with the 1980 research law, the marijuana could only be obtained through seizures conducted by local law enforcement agencies

However, the limitations of the New York plan suggest some of the ways that state officials can learn from New Jersey. For instance, NY state officials could look to New Jersey to see how little federal regulation and federal funding has impacted hospital participation. Thus far, the NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act has been effective, with countless physicians, caregivers, and alternative treatment centers successfully registering for participation in the NJ Medical Marijuana Program.

Additionally, NY state legislators may want to look to New Jersey for guidance on implementing comprehensive legislation to legalize medical marijuana. A major reason for the limited impact of Cuomo’s plan is that is essentially a pilot program relying on the obscure 1980 law that allows a few patients to take part in state-run research. Until the NY State legislature truly follows the lead of the NJ legislature, Cuomo’s plan is probably going to be of limited benefit for chronically ill patients in New York.

Although New Jersey could certainly point the way for NY’s recent and future efforts to legalize medical marijuana, it is important to remember that the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in both states.

If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession in New Jersey, do not hesitate to contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Shebell & Shebell, LLC. Call 732-663-1122 today for a free consultation.

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