New York State

The other argument for recreational pot

State lawmakers tout the potential health benefits of opening marijuana up to everyone.

Girl smoking week closeup

Girl smoking week closeup Stanimir G.Stoev/Shutterstock

The push to legalize marijuana for recreational use is gaining momentum in New York. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is pushing for it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he is open to it and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has concluded that it is inevitable.

Much of this drive appears to come from a social justice campaign to end racial disparities in arrests for marijuana offenses. Nixon made that clear in her campaign video. De Blasio’s new position, which included a demand that the NYPD stop making arrests for smoking marijuana in public, came after reports of enforcement disproportionately affecting black and Latino residents.

But changes could remove or ease restrictions on medical marijuana in New York and might even help to curb the state’s opioid epidemic.

New York has a medical marijuana program, but it is more restrictive than in other states. For instance, a person must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition. While that list was recently expanded to include post-traumatic stress disorder, a patient must still have a “severe, debilitating or life-threatening” condition, which leaves out many others who may benefit from medical marijuana.

However, legalizing recreational marijuana would not automatically mean major changes to medical marijuana. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Health Committee, has been pushing to expand the program for the past two years, including legislation that would broaden the list of qualifying conditions. He said that the full legalization of recreational marijuana would not necessarily change the medical marijuana program, and wants to make sure that everyone understands the difference between cannabis for recreational purposes and cannabis for medical purposes.

Though the details of full legalization are still unclear, one thing is certain: It would come with new regulations. The state would likely set quality standards and issue new guidelines for how it could be used in the medical community, according to state Sen. Liz Krueger, who is sponsoring legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I like that if you go to buy something, you will know what it is you’re buying, and somebody won’t be stuffing some stuff in the bag that you really shouldn’t be using,” Krueger said.

“I’m not going around saying it’s the miracle cure for everything. But it seems to be treating the symptoms incredibly effectively.” – state Sen. Liz Krueger

Proponents also argue that marijuana would help combat the opioid epidemic. Although federal law still restricts most marijuana research, multiple studies have found that areas with legal marijuana had fewer opioid-related deaths than in areas without it.

Like Nixon and de Blasio, Krueger was inspired to introduce the bill to end a law enforcement policy that she saw as unfairly affecting minorities. But she also recognized the potential to curb opioid addiction if patients don’t have to rely on highly addictive drugs for pain relief. Krueger said she has followed overseas studies about new and different ways that cannabis can used by the medical community.

“I’m not saying I’m going around saying it’s the miracle cure for everything, but it seems to be treating the symptoms incredibly effectively without putting these patients into physical risk and danger and almost guaranteed addiction,” Krueger said.

She added that even if someone does not receive a prescription for cannabis, it offers a far safer option than other illicit drugs, alcohol or cigarettes for anyone choosing to self-medicate, as it is poses far fewer risks, cannot lead to overdose and is largely not addictive, with the possible exception of those predisposed to addictive behavior.

Of course, Krueger’s legislation has never made it very far in the Republican-controlled state Senate, and neither did the Assembly version of the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. In both chambers, the bill never made it out of committee. But Krueger sees that changing. She does not think that the bill will pass this session, but sees it going further than it has before and said that Peoples-Stokes thinks the Assembly version may pass for the first time. Krueger added that she thinks it could pass in the full legislature next year, saying that several upstate Republicans have told her their constituents want them to vote for it.

“Four months ago, I never would have told you that I thought it could pass next year,” Krueger said.


Bills of health


Single-payer health care

Passing single-payer health care has long been a priority for Democrats and progressives in the state. The New York Health Act has passed in the Assembly the past three years. This year, it is on the floor calendar for a vote and is poised to pass again before the end of the session. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also signaled that he would be open to establishing a single-payer system on the state level. However, the bill has never been brought to a vote in the state Senate, something that is unlikely to change this year.
 

Nurse staffing ratios

The issue of nurse staffing ratios has long been a key issue of the New York State Nurses Association, which has pushed for the passage of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. The legislation is meant to ensure that hospitals maintain a ratio of nurses to patients that does not overwork the nurses and hurt their ability to care for patients. It passed in the Assembly in 2016, but has never made it to a vote in the state Senate, though nurses are still urging the state Legislature to take action. Plus, the bill has faced strong opposition from hospitals and business groups.
 

Opioid epidemic

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a plan to introduce supervised injection sites for illegal drug users. The sites are meant to decrease overdose deaths by giving drug users a safer place to get high. However, the plan would require approval from the state Health Department, which ultimately answers to Cuomo. The state Senate also continues to hold public forums and hearings of the Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. The state Legislature also enacted several pieces of legislation addressing the opioid crisis as part of the state budget, including putting a limit on how long a prescription is valid.
 

Health insurance guaranty fund

One of the most contentious health measures in the state budget was a health care shortfall fund to brace the state for the potential loss of federal funds, which had been a top priority of the Greater New York Hospital Association. In the second half of the session, GNYHA is now pushing for a health insurance guaranty fund. This would cushion the blow for consumers and health care providers should a health plan shut down, like when Health Republic did in 2015. Legislation to create such a fund is sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and state Sen. David Valesky, although it has drawn opposition in the state Senate and remains in committee in both houses.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.