Joining a growing list of states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses, the New York Times report. The shift by Cuomo, long has resisted legalizing medical marijuana, comes as Colorado and Washington State have legalized marijuana for recreational use. 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 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.
Cuomo's measure moves New York, long one of the nation's 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. In neighboring New Jersey, m medical marijuana was approved by former Gov. Jon Corzine but was put into effect only after Gov. Chris Christie set rules limiting its strength, banning home delivery, and requiring patients to show they have exhausted conventional treatments. The first of six planned dispensaries has already opened. Cuomo's action comes as advocates for changing drug laws have stepped up criticism of New York City's stringent enforcement of marijuana laws, which resulted in nearly 450,000 misdemeanor charges from 2002 to 2012.