It appears that Governor Christie’s decision to give the go-ahead to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has had quite an impact on his neighbors. Ever since the news broke, New York has seen a big revival of the medical marijuana debate.
First, state Senator Diane Savino wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo in which she stated that New York needs “to follow [New Jersey’s] example and pass legislation to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana when no other option is available.” The Staten Island democrat is co-sponsoring a medical marijuana bill and urged Cuomo “to lend your support and leadership to this legislation, and give doctors one more tool to manage pain and alleviate suffering for thousands of New Yorkers.”
Now the Governor, who has previously stated that he does not support marijuana reform, has himself began to lay the groundwork for a future shift in that position. He recently announced that his administration was “talking to both sides of the issue” and reviewing it. “We’re always learning and listening and talking and growing, we hope,” added Cuomo.
Last year, the state Assembly passed a bill that would have allowed patients access to medical marijuana and created a regulatory framework. However, the measure has not been able to get past the republican-controlled Senate. “The big obstacle continues to be getting a couple of more votes in the state Senate to enable it to pass,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried.
Gottfried has talked to members of the Cuomo administration who are going over the issue and believes that the Governor’s support could tip the scales in favor of the legislation. “My gut feeling or prediction is that when that’s done he will support legislation,” he says. “The merits are overwhelmingly in support and I think certainly, to the extent he relies on health [professionals] viewpoints, I think it’s a very clear decision.”
All signs are pointing towards an inevitable medical marijuana showdown sometime soon. While getting the necessary votes in the state Senate may be a challenge, citizen pressure and administration support could be a game-changer in the new political climate. Between June’s marijuana decriminalization in Connecticut and the recent actions of New Jersey, marijuana reform is definitely in the Tri-State air.
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