This is not an effort to legalize or decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. It is, instead, a realistic acknowledgement that medical progress, while impressive, has not gone far enough. If doctors can prescribe modest doses of marijuana as a means to increase appetite or relieve pain, it is time for New York State to get around the stigma of this kind of legislation.
Savino’s bill includes an age stipulation where patients under the age of 18 would be administered the drug without smoking it. It also lists particular diseases that could be remedied through medical marijuana.
All of this, however, is just to get the bill through the State Senate. For most people, the idea that a doctor is signing off on limited use would be enough. In some states, the rules may be more lax, but the current bill in discussion is a “good enough” bill.
Governor Andrew Cuomo should get on board with this, although he may be waiting for a final bill before he weighs in. There is little political danger for him to take a definitive stance eventually. Even if he has eyes on a national run, the tact that he would have to take to the left would not be in conflict with this.
Medical marijuana is not a cure for any major disease (at least none in which we are certain), but it is a remedy that is not really more dangerous that a lot of over-the-counter cough medicines. The usual “other drugs are worse” argument is not what should make lawmakers vote for this bill. The fact that we have an aging population, with a plethora of medical issues, is a reason to vote for this.
Electorally, the risks should be small. Conservative Libertarians certainly do not have an issue with medical marijuana. Progressive liberals would also not balk at it. New York State has a lot of pressing issues, such as Sandy relief, Common Core education compliance, and the usual budget battles, just to name a few. This should be easy-breezy for Savino, a centrist Democrat, who has jostled to get the votes in the State Senate, although it will be close.
Another option to deal with opponents could be to add a sunset provision where the bill would be in effect for a limited time and then would require another vote later on, in say ten years. If the policy works, it will be fast-tracked and approved in ten years. If it is a failure, it would just run its course.
And in ten years, it may not even be needed. This would basically mean that New York would be give medical marijuana a “tryout.” It would also mean that in ten years, we will have a somewhat different State Senate and Assembly, thus giving the issue more eyes and more minds to consider it.