New York lawmakers are speeding ahead with plans to reform the state’s marijuana laws in 2021, prefiling eight bills so far to be considered in upcoming session.
And while these new measures each deal with reforming the state’s current medical cannabis program, they come amid a strong push from the governor and legislators to legalize marijuana for adult use next year.
As negotiations continue on that broader reform, seven cannabis bills have been preemptively introduced in the Assembly and one in the Senate. They touch on a wide range of topics—from tenants’ rights for medical cannabis patients to health insurance coverage for marijuana products.
Here’s a summary of what the New York marijuana bills would accomplish:
A00040: This legislation would require a study on how taxes and banking are managed for the medical cannabis market. A report would have to be submitted by January 16, 2022.
A00127: The bill would made a series of revisions to the state’s medical marijuana program. Its primary purpose is to expand who qualifies as a cannabis caretaker who can possess products on a patient’s behalf, adding “facility caregivers” to the list. That includes workers in hospitals, adult care facilities and mental health institutions.
A00169: Under this proposal, the definition of a “serious condition” that qualifies a patient for medical cannabis would be amended. Rather than list out specific eligible maladies, people could qualify for having any “condition, or symptom or complication of the condition or its treatment, for which, in the practitioner’s professional opinion and review of past treatments, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from primary or adjunctive treatment with medical use of medical marihuana.”
A00184: This measure would provide for the regulatory “normalizing” of organizations that are permitted to “produce, sell, deliver or distribute” cannabis.
A00242: If enacted, medical marijuana would be considered a “prescription drug” that’s eligible for health insurance coverage.
A00413: The bill would add dysmenorrhea, or pain linked to menstrual cramps, to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis.
A00531: This would remove the “serious” designation as a requirement to qualify for medical marijuana. It also increase the amount of cannabis that a patient can purchase at one time from a 30- to 60-day supply. A medical marijuana research program, along with applicable licenses, would be created.
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All of these pieces of legislation are being introduced as New York lawmakers pursue recreational marijuana legalization—a policy change that’s been in the works for the past couple years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently said that enacting a regulated cannabis market and taxing products would offset economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the governor has included legalization in his past two annual budget proposals, the reform has consistently stalled amid disagreements over certain provisions such as the tax structure and where to allocate the resulting revenues. But 2021 seems to be shaping up to be a more productive year for enacting the policy change, especially after voters in neighboring New Jersey approved legalization at the ballot box last month.
The top Republican in the New York Assembly said earlier this month that he expects the legislature to legalize cannabis this coming session, for example.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said last month that she also anticipates that the reform will advance next year, though she noted that lawmakers will still have to decide on how tax revenue from marijuana sales is distributed.
Cuomo also said last month that the “pressure will be on” to legalize cannabis in the state and lawmakers will approve it “this year” to boost the economy amid the health crisis.
“You have such a [budget] gap now,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an easier conversation.”
A top aide also confirmed in October that the administration planned to give legalization another try in 2021, and the governor said in a separate recent interview that he felt the reform would be accomplished “soon.”
Senate Democrats are on better footing to advocate for policies they favor since they secured a supermajority during last month’s election. If Cuomo were to veto any bill over details he didn’t like, they could potentially have enough votes to override him.
With that supermajority, legislators are feeling emboldened to take on a wide range of criminal justice issues. A coalition of lawmakers and advocacy groups this month released a roadmap to that end, and it includes a proposal to legalize marijuana.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.