Albany, Jan. 5: Joining a growing group of states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana, governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York plans this week to announce an executive action that would allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses, state officials say.
The shift by Cuomo, a Democrat who had long resisted legalising medical marijuana, comes as other states are taking increasingly liberal positions on it — most notably Colorado, where thousands have flocked to buy the drug for recreational use since it became legal on January 1.
Cuomo’s plan will be far more restrictive than the laws in Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions as mild as backaches. It will allow just 20 hospitals across the state to prescribe marijuana to patients with cancer, glaucoma or other diseases that meet standards to be set by the New York state department of health.
While Cuomo’s measure falls short of full legalisation, it nonetheless moves New York, long one of the most punitive states for those caught using or dealing drugs, a significant step closer to policies being embraced by marijuana advocates and lawmakers elsewhere.
New York hopes to have the infrastructure in place this year to begin dispensing medical marijuana, although it is too soon to say when it will actually be available to patients.
For Cuomo, the sudden shift on marijuana — which he is expected to announce on Wednesday — was the latest of several instances in which he has embarked on a major social policy effort sure to bolster his popularity with a large portion of his political base.