New York Governor Andrew Cuomo [official website] announced during his State of the State address on Wednesday plans for a medical marijuana pilot program [press release] which would permit up to 20 hospitals to distribute medical marijuana to patients with serious illnesses. Cuomo's plan states that the pilot program "will allow qualified eligible participants to seek relief for their symptoms in a safe and legal manner, while also evaluating the effectiveness and feasibility of a medical marijuana system" and noted that the findings of the program will help create future policy. The plan creates the program within current New York statutory authority [PHL Art. 33-A text], which currently allows New York to establish medical marijuana research programs in hospitals. Critics have claimed [LAT report] that the reliance on this statute is unworkable in the long-term.
If enacted, Cuomo's plan will make New York the twenty-first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana legalization [JURIST backgrounder] has created controversy in the US, and JURIST Guest Columnist Alex Kriet predicts that 2014 will be a groundbreaking year [JURIST op-ed] for marijuana policy. In November Colorado voters approved [JURIST report] Proposition AA, which levies a tax on all sales of recreational marijuana in the state. In late October the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging Arizona medical marijuana regulation. In mid-October Washington state approved [JURIST report] rules for recreational sale of marijuana. In August the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would not interfere with states experimenting with marijuana legalization. Also in August New Jersey governor Chris Christie sent back a bill [JURIST report] which would have made marijuana more accessible. Earlier that month Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed [JURIST report] a bill making Illinois the twenty-first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.