Published January 22, 2014 This content is archived.
In January 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that, through an executive order, New York would become the 21st U.S. state to permit the medical use of marijuana.
New York’s program would pave the way for up to 20 hospitals statewide to prescribe marijuana to people with certain serious or debilitating conditions. Since California became the first state to allow for medical marijuana use in 1996, 19 more states plus the District of Columbia have followed suit.
The use of medical marijuana has elicited strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Although the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” studies have shown that marijuana can alleviate symptoms of certain diseases, such as glaucoma, cancer and HIV.
Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa and is usually ingested by smoking. It is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S.
AAs a DEA-defined Schedule I drug, marijuana is considered to have the potential for severe psychological or physical dependence.
The main active ingredients in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is what causes the “high” from marijuana, as it acts upon the endocannabinoid system in the brain. Effects of marijuana can include distorted perception, impaired coordination, difficulty thinking and disrupted learning and memory.
Chronic marijuana use, especially if begun at a young age, has been shown to have a long-lasting negative impact on brain function.
Recent research suggests that marijuana can offer relief for the following conditions:
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In his State of the State address in January 2014, Governor Cuomo announced that New York would launch a program to research the feasibility of medical marijuana in New York, with the goal of providing relief to patients suffering from serious illnesses.
Governor Cuomo authorized the action using the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program, approved in 1980.
Up to 20 hospitals may be allowed to provide medical marijuana to patients being treated for serious illnesses. Eligible patients would be limited to those with “severe, life-threatening or debilitating conditions” such as cancer or glaucoma.
It is the Governor’s intention that New York’s program will be much more restrictive than, for example, California’s program, which allows medical marijuana use for conditions as mild as backaches or anxiety. Other diseases or conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy, would be eligible if they meet standards that will be set by the New York State Department of Health after public hearings on the issue.
A Siena College poll in May 2013 showed overwhelming support for medical marijuana: 82 percent of New York voters approved of the idea for seriously or terminally ill people.